Car Guy

Why I Didn’t Renew My Sirius-XM

Here's one you can't blame on General Motors.

By 3.22.11

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My Sirius-XM contract came up for renewal last month and I decided to let it lapse.

Reason?

Some of the content is really good (I'm a longtime and big-time fan of Howard Stern's) but I'm also really tired of paying to hear commercials. Endless, super-annoying commercials. Buy Gold! Do You Need Mortgage Relief?

Argghh!

On some of the Sirius-XM talk channels, commercials are 40-50 percent of the "content." For example, Glenn Beck. I don't like particularly like Glenn Beck (sorry) but sometimes I listen to the channel he's on because I just like talk shows in general. But if the guy isn't pushing his "sponsor this hour," then he's taking another 5-10 minute "break" so that the sponsor can directly push whatever the product is.

Now, there's nothing wrong with advertising your product. What has been eating at me for years now and finally caused me to say the Hell with it is this business of paying to be spoon-fed ads.

In other contexts, where you're viewing or hearing a program for free, I understand that having ads in the mix is a necessary -- and absolutely justifiable -- thing. It is how the station (or Internet site, like Hulu.com) makes money. Since you're not paying to view or hear the program, the ads are there so that the provider of the program is able to make ends meet and -- hopefully -- make a profit, too.

It's a fair exchange when it comes to rabbit ears TV, say -- or "free" radio.

Online stuff, too.

But there is something oily and just plain not right about paying a monthly fee to receive content -- ostensibly -- but which in reality is at least a third to half commercials.

They're double-dipping, as far as I'm concerned. And it makes me mad. Mad enough to drop my subscription, much as I will miss Howard's show.

Yes, I know. Sirius-XM has "commercial free" channels. But they are all music channels. Some of them are very good, but let's face it, it's 2011, and we have things such as MP3 players and (in our cars) music storage hard drives that can catalog an entire library of your own personally chosen selections. I bought Sirius-XM for just one reason -- to hear the talk programs like Howard's show. I bet many other people did, too -- and are getting tired of all the blankety-blan, expletive deleted !!%$## commercials.

I think maybe this is why Sirius-XM hasn't been as successful as everyone hoped -- Howard Stern included.

Howard, to his credit, does a much better job keeping the dreck in check. And -- I hope I am not giving away something here -- he provides a way to escape commercials almost entirely by dint of his two channels (Sirius 100 and 101), which makes it possible to toggle between the two. When a batch of ads erupts on 100, go to 101 and -- usually -- you can pick up another Stern segment and dodge the advertising juggernaut.

Still, it's annoying that you even have to do such things given you're paying to hear the stuff in the first place.

No doubt the people in charge figure having the ads helps keep the monthly subscription fees in check. But here's an interesting fact: According to Forbes, Sirius-XMmakes 85 percent of its money from subscribers -- not ads!

Why so many ads, then?

I wonder: How much more would it cost per month to have really commercial-free satellite radio? Let's say double the current charge. That would mean an uptick to about $25 per month. It's not that much -- cheap, frankly, to never have to hear another blankety-blank ad again.

Has anyone over there -- in management -- looked into it?

My informal survey -- talking to friends and family members who are satellite radio subscribers -- indicates that there are a lot of people who would happily pay more to never, ever again have to hear about Gold Bond Powder, Debt Relief Now! or natural male enhancement products.

I believe this might save Sirius-XM or at least, jump-start it. Imagine being able to listen to your favorite shows without also having to listen to pushy pitchmen hawking products you've got about as much interest in as Liberace had in Hustler magazine.

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About the Author

Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities: The Cars You Love to Hate (Motor Books International) and a new book, Road Hogs.