Taking Streaming Siriusly

Things aren’t looking so bad for Sirius XM these days. They finished 2010 with more than 20 million subscribers, and renewed their contract with Howard Stern, and managed to report profits for most of last year. And while the crisis isn’t over – they still have plenty of debt to worry about – the skies seem to be brightening.

In part, they can thank Pandora for that. Pandora, who filed papers last week as a first step in their move to go public, is raising awareness of and interest in new radio technologies. And while Sirius XM isn’t really an Internet radio company, they have a substantial presence online, and could certainly head in that direction.

Actually, I’ve begun to wonder if they haven’t already – they just announced a new deal that puts them on Sonos Internet radio devices along with Pandora and others. They’re working on a new platform for Android, they’re already on iPhone. They are already in the Internet radio game – and getting an extra $2.99 a month for it from their subscribers.

Pandora’s impressed a bunch of folks with their stats – 80 million registered users is an impressive number. But we know from the filing that less than 10% of them are paying customers – and while Pandora is watching ad dollars flow in, they have a big job in front of them in turning all those listeners into advertising revenue. Pandora’s subscribers listen to ad-free music streams.

Meanwhile, Sirius XM has reported that they have more than 20 million subscribers as of the end of 2010. Who are both paying to listen AND listening to commercials. Auto sales are on the upswing, and Sirius XM gains subs from that as well.

Analysts are liking Sirius XM, and I have to say their business model is starting to look somewhat sound…

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