Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sirius-ly Flawed

I didn't know what to expect when Sirius and XM officially integrated their channel lineups on Wednesday, November 12, but I have been more and more disappointed as the days have passed. We have had XM Satellite Radio for four years and loved it. When I was commuting from Downtown Akron to Downtown Cleveland daily, it was a godsend. I could get news, music, talk... whatever I was in the mood for.

Although Sirius has done its best to broadcast their like-stations on the same channel as their now-gone XM counterparts, their offerings are underwhelming. XM's iconic history of alternative music station, Fred, has been replaced by Sirius' 1st Wave channel. Where Fred was mostly deep cuts, 1st Wave is more mainstream alternative hits. Sirius' '80s on 8 channel is the same handful of artists and songs over and over. When XM was broadcasting, it seemed to be a much broader selection.

Then there are stations like UPOP, which has been left out in the cold by the merger. The station is no longer available on your satellite radio receiver, but apparently you can still listen to their programming via XM online radio and through DirecTV. Frustrating.

The other big complaint is DJs. If I want to hear a DJ babble on my music channels, I'll listen to terrestrial radio. I can understand the novelty of using the original MTV VJs on the '80s channel. I get that. But the amount of interruptions and chatter by DJs on other channels, like 1st Wave, is frustrating and annoying. Where once upon a time we would tune to an XM channel and just let it play in the background during parties for continuous music, we will now be relying on iTunes playlists in those situations.

And all those artist-specific channels! Do we really need an all-AC/DC channel? Or an all-Elvis channel? How about all-Jimmy Buffett, all-Springsteen, all-Led Zeppelin, and all-Grateful Dead channels? Yep. They're all there. Some only for a limited time, but they are still taking up space.

I'm not saying we're cancelling our service yet. I'm curious about a couple of new channels we didn't have with XM, like The Catholic Channel and NPR Now, and am looking forward to checking them out. We're going to give this whole XM-Sirius hybrid a fair shake and see if it grows on us, but we are certainly not ruling out walking away from satellite radio until competition returns and quality improves.