Friday, November 04, 2005

"Wealth is not gained by perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown" Kevin Kelly

Frank Bell is a good broadcaster, a gentleman who knows his trade. He sets the record straight on those pay radio folk to wit...

Fresh Research About Satellite Radio Listening

Regardless of how Arbitron proceeds with the proposed change to include language prompting diarykeepers to write down their listening to satellite or internet radio, it's important to understand how much satellite radio listening is actually being reported right now. This information is helpful to put into perspective the far-reaching claims of the XM and Sirius PR flacks who have pretty much convinced the mainstream press that terrestial broadcasting is over the hill.

While examining Pittsburgh Summer 05 diaries in Columbia this week, I calculated how much time Pittsburgh diarykeepers were reporting listening to satellite radio. The results should get the attention of any person or organization who has invested money in XM or Sirius. These findings may also provide insight as to why Arbitron, in its quest to develop new revenue streams, feels compelled to prompt diarykeepers to report satellite listening.

Of the 3340 in-tab diaries for Pittsburgh's Summer survey, a grand total of 42, or 1.26% of the sample, report any type of satellite listening. These 42 diaries include every mention of XM (21) , Sirius (17) or "other" (5) satellite channels. The individual service numbers add to 43 because one diarykeeper reported switching from XM to Sirius in the car, which I'm not sure is technically possible.

Based on the glowing reports from mainstream media, you might assume people were in love with their satellite radios and spent most of their day listening to all these wonderful options. In reality, they spend relatively few quarter-hours with any kind of radio. Here are the details:

XM -- 895 quarter-hours, or .0037 of all radio listening (.37%).
Sirius -- 412 quarter-hours, or .0017 of all radio listening (.17%).
Other -- 73 quarter-hours, or .0003 of all radio listening (.03%).

Total Satellite Usage -- 1380 quarter-hours, or 0.57% -- barely one half of one per cent -- of all radio listening in the market.

These percentages were derived by dividing each service's unweighted quarter-hours by the Summer market total of 242,335 quarter-hours. They are not "shares" in the traditional sense, but do provide a real-world perspective on how listeners are behaving.

Strictly for comparison, KQV-am, a local news/talk station, generated 2512 raw quarter-hours, or .0104 (1.04%) of all radio listening. In the Summer 05 market report, their quarter-hour audience is 2700 persons, worth a 0.9 share.

My suggestion is that any broadcaster examining diaries should take a moment and get the facts about what is actually happening with satellite radio in their home market. It would also be helpful if Arbitron would provide the percentages on a market-by-market basis so we know what the baseline is before they modify the current diary language. Then terrestial broadcasters can start generating their own press releases!

Bravo Frank! Well said. The pay radio folks are using fuzzy math, the same kind of goofy argument that some pay tv guys have used...the "sub" case wherein the sub number is presented rather than any viewership stats. A cable network may well have 20, 40, 60 million subs - while that number does represent home penetration - that number is no indication of viewership. HBO is an excellent cable network, many would say the very best, they have around 28 million subs, their biggest hit shows pull viewership numbers that are small compared to hit shows on the big four. Your own home is a great example, how many cable channels are available to you, how many do you actually watch, how many did you actually order (beyond channels in whatever tier you purchased)? Easy to understand why a cable network would chose to talk up being in 20 million homes rather than address their 200,000 nationwide viewership. There are very good reasons why many cable nets run paids at night and on the weekends. Easier to understand why the pay radio guys want to keep everyone focused on subs, set sales and the respective growth percentages (when starting at zero the stats do seem amazing - what a bidness!!!). Not so fast...when the street finally gets a look at the pay radio ratings "the party's over"... how fitting...that line is one of Mel's favorites.

Meanwhile, Captain Kurt has the Motley Fool take and his always fresh pov, here

Got a nice email from the legendary John Long. John is one of radio's best and brightest. You may find him on the web here. John's writing Puttin On The Hits deserves the attention of any serious student of the media.