The Evolution of Radio: How satellite radio is competing

99% of the world’s population owns a radio. Lets step back and think about this for a second. In a world where wars are being fought each and every day, in a world where situations get tense over something as simple as sports, in a world where you can be oppressed because of different belief systems, almost 100% of the people can agree on one matter. They see the radio as both a recreational tool as well as a necessity.

When Marconi was first able to send a radio signal farther than a mile his mind wasn’t necessarily thinking it would be an avenue for talk radio as well as a music listening experience as we know it as today. After all, the radio waves were still unable to transmit the human voice, but rather Morse code. (Radio)

Not until the 1920’s, after World War I broke out was broadcast radio bursting onto the scene. At this point radio had been much improved from the war. That paired with savvy businessmen realizing the money that could be made from broadcasting led to terrestrial radio, as we know it today. (Radio)

As we step into the twenty first century however, even more advancements have been made in radio.  In the early 2000’s, two companies, Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio emerged with this new concept of satellite radio. “A satellite radio service works by transmitting its signal from a ground-based station to one or more satellites orbiting the Earth. The satellite bounces the signal back to specialized receivers on the ground, commonly located in automobiles and home stereo systems” (Satellite Radio). This form of radio has created new strides within the radio industry and has created fresh energy for the still thriving business.

XM and Sirius began in 2001 and 2002 respectively. They had dozens of channels being broadcasted which include anything from kids shows to sports to hip hop stations. Because they are not advertisement based like most of their terrestrial and Internet counterparts, they rely on revenue from subscribers to stay in business. You can listen to their content nearly anywhere, just like you would an actual radio and more and more shop and restaurant owners are looking to Sirius for content to play in their buildings. (History of Satellite Radio).

In February of 2007, the competition was no longer just pushing the two to create better and better content but instead hurting the two companies. So much so, that they decided to merge into what is now Sirius XM Satellite Radio. They both offered similar content, and had similar strategies in how to get that content out to the world. They both tackled similar markets in order to keep their consumers happy, but in the end it seemed like there was only room for one satellite radio provider. (Taub)

Though it seems like this merger led to a monopoly, that is simply not the case. Sirius XM, though the sole satellite company, is still competing with terrestrial and Internet companies alike. They must continually push themselves to create content so that people will be willing to pay for what they can so easily get for free. First and foremost, they are completely listener supported and don’t make any revenue from advertisements. Because they don’t rely on advertisers, they also don’t have to rely on ratings to attract those advertisers. This means that they can focus on getting really niche content to a wide variety of listeners. Some might want strictly music from the 90s, or strictly Grateful Dead, and they can have just that, 24/7.  (Summers)

They spend an incredible amount of time and energy getting their stations to be exactly what their listeners are looking for. Now that they have merged, Sirius XM is a one-stop shop to anything you would ever need to listen to. No longer do you have to choose what is more important NFL or MLB, now you can get them both on the same provider. They also have acquired great on air talents such as Oprah and Martha Stewart, not to mention Howard Stern. (Summers)

With this star power, as well as their knack for delivering exactly what their customers are looking for, there is a bright future ahead for Sirius XM. Some people are afraid that it will lead to the end of terrestrial radio, but on the contrary. There is more than enough room for both to survive and prosper, and both will continue to do so.


Dominick, Joseph R., Fritz Messere, and Barry L. Sherman. (2008).  Broadcasting,             Cable, the Internet, and Beyond: an Introduction to Modern Electronic Media.             Boston: McGraw Hill.

“History of Satellite Radio.” (06 Feb. 2011). Sirius Satellite Radio vs. XM Radio –             Compare on Satellite Radio USA. 2008. Retrieved from:            <>.

“Radio.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.  (2008)             Encyclopædia             Britannica. Retrieved from:            <>.

“Satellite radio.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. (2008)            Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011. Retrieved from:             <>.

Summers, Dion. TRF 235. Syracuse University. 10 Feb. 2011. Lecture.

Taub, Eric A. “Laded With Personalities, Now Satellite Radio May Try a Merger.” The             New York Times [New York City] 1 Jan. 2007, Late Edition ed., sec. C: C1. Print.

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