SiriusXM is indeed serious about encouraging more consumers to enjoy its satellite radio services, and its introduction of its Essential plan is proof of it. The streaming music plan charges $8 per month and it offers a package of more than 300 channels ranging from music to sports, comedy and talk radio content.
The Essential plan, however, doesn’t include two of SiriusXM’s popular channels – Howard Stern’s two channels – but it’s more affordable than the Premium subscription. The latter offers more channels and subscriber benefits but the former provides access to on-demand content and 24/7 comedy shows, among others.
The Essential plan is also only available for online streaming. This means that the 300-plus channels on the subscription plan can’t be enjoyed from a vehicle’s satellite radio. Such limitation may or may not be a big deal depending on several personal factors.
But if you want commercial-free listening to a wide range of music genres, then the Essential is worthy of consideration. The plan even has specific radio channels for decades, genres, and artists so there are more choices, too.
But why pay $8 per month for a service that can be enjoyed for free? Millions of people, after all, get free content from the ad-sponsored packages of Pandora and Spotify.
The $8-a-month fee doesn’t seem reasonable in comparison with the Spotify Premium subscription, which has a nearly similar monthly fee, too. With Spotify Premium, users can play songs on demand, a feature not usually available on SiriusXM unless on its Xtra channels where songs can be skipped on demand.
According to SiriusXM officials, the Essential plan isn’t exactly targeted at the company’s traditional audience – drivers, for example. Instead, it’s expressly targeted at younger consumers who either don’t own cars, don’t stay in their cars for prolonged periods, or don’t have satellite radio in their cars.
Since it’s an online streaming service, it will likely appeal the most to millennials who are connected to the Internet for most of their waking moments.
SiriusXM also offers a more affordable plan – the Select subscription for a $5 per month fee for six months. For more listening choices, there’s the $15.99 Select plan. The Select bundle, however, doesn’t have an online streaming feature – it’s only suitable for in-car enjoyment.
Don’t want to plunge headfirst into SiriusXM’s plans? Try the promo where you will only pay $1 for the first three months of subscription.
The news about the new streaming plan is just one of several strategic moves that SiriusXM has been taking in recent months. This year, SiriusXM’s parent company Liberty Media acquired Pandora for $3.5 billion, a move that industry analysts say shows the fast growth of the streaming market.
With the merger of Pandora and SiriusXM, their combine audience is estimated at more than 100 million subscribers. These two services will also be cross-integrated according to SiriusXM officials, a move that will make them virtually twins.
Plus, Liberty Media may be the dominant player in the competitive internet radio sector. Its competitors, however, will not take the threat sitting down and consumers will ultimately benefit from the increased competition.
Unlike the two-horse competition between, say, Androids vs. iPhones and personal computers and Macs, the internet radio industry will have more players and more choices. Consumers will benefit from better services, whether it’s in internet radio or in on-demand streaming, as well as more competitive pricing.
The power of internet radio is obvious, too, and it’s one that the SiriusXM acquisition of Pandora reinforces. While both SiriusXM and Pandora are the dominant players in the internet radio sector, these are different animals, so to speak. Where Pandora provides free services to its 70 million listeners, SiriusXM has 36 million paying customers.
The merger of these two companies expanded SiriusXM’s user base and, thus, makes it more able to take on Spotify, the industry’s still-leading provider with greater number of users. Plus, SiriusXM has less competition, a fact that hopefully will work in its favor down the road.
iHeartMedia is widely considered as SiriusXM’s main competition and threat for good reasons. Majority of Americans, about 90%, still listen to the radio at least once a week and such listening habit has an impact on internet radio’s overall performance. While iHeartMedia is bankrupt, it’s still giving a good fight. But its acquisition by Liberty Media will expand the latter’s customer base and it still has a strong interest in getting a stake in iHeartMedia.
SiriusXM also faces the challenge of consumer conversion. It may or may not follow Spotify’s successful consumer conversion strategy that allowed the company an impressive 50% conversion rate. Basically, Spotify was able to convert half of its so-called engaged users from their for-free habits to a paid subscription (i.e., premium service).
With the Essential plan, SiriusXM may see its customer base expanding in the right direction.