XM Sirius: Destroying the Point of Satellite Radio

XM Sirius, photo by maxedaperture

I certainly wouldn’t call any XM Sirius a “monopoly” when it has to compete with free terrestrial radio, not to mention my iPod and CD changer, but I’m still not at all sure how I feel about the latest development in the XM Sirius merger.  Subscribers to each individual service woke up today to new channel lineups that, theoretically, maintain the best of both services. The new XM lineup replaces my beloved Ethel, Fred, and Lucy with similarly-formatted Sirius channels (though it sounds like some of the XM deejays were retained). The new Sirius lineup replaces the Sirius decade channels with the XM equivalents (though after the XM program directors for those channels were laid off, I’m not sure if the quality is going to stay the same).

Having only had limited time to listen to my XM subscription, I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, “Ethel” as a station name has way more character than the prosaic “Alt Nation,” and the deejay during my commute this morning was just awful- I’ll particularly miss the local flavor of the DC-based Ethel deejays. On the other hand, all my preset buttons seemed to give me the same types of music as they did yesterday, so it’s possible I won’t even notice that much. And I’m actually kind of excited about having BBC Radio One where I previously had U-POP. (Yes, I’m a closet Europop junkie. Sorry.)

There do seem to be some weird programming choices- I’m not sure why the “Latino/World” category needs TWO stations for Canadian pop, only one for “Latin/Tropical,” and apparently no channels for music from outside the Western Hemisphere. Wasn’t satellite radio supposed to bring us lots of interesting and quirky little niche programming instead of just more channels of homogenized crap? Do we really need an all-Springsteen, all-the-time channel in any universe?

So what do you think, DC satellite listeners? Are you keeping your sat radio subscriptions? Cancelling to protest the loss of DC-based jobs? Adding new programming from the other network to your subscription? throwing up your hands and going back to free FM?

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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25 thoughts on “XM Sirius: Destroying the Point of Satellite Radio

  1. I have Sirius and will continue to keep my subscription. I have a boom-box at my apartment and listen online at work. After 3 years of satellite radio I cannot listen to regular radio again. NPR is the only thing on the dial that I can tolerate after subscribing to Sirius.

  2. Very disappointed that our local djs on XMU are gone. The morning guy on “Sirius XMU” blows! I agree the nomenclature on Sirius is uncreative, not to mention XM is a much better name than Sirius!(e.g. AM, FM, XM…duh!)

    The programming has incorporated the best of both worlds in many instances, but 2 Canadian pop stations as well as switching The Verge to Canadian emerging artists!?! C’mon!

    I’m not happy with the apparent takeover of XM, but it’s better than commercials. In a couple years when streaming Internet to our vehicles is made easier via our phone or directly, then I’ll get rid of it. But in the meantime, I’ll pay for it.

  3. As a long time XM listener I am pretty disappointed. I hear commercials, lots of commercials on all channels. They may have been for programming on other XM-Sirius channels, but they were still commercials. Then you add a DJ to almost every channel I flipped through… Ladies and gents, this is why I bought into XM in the first place! To avoid endless commercials about things I have no interest in, and bad yammering from idiot DJ’s. I agree, there were a few XM DJ’s who spoke every so often with some DC flair, but now… ugh. And why did they have to change the channel names and feel? Fred, Ethel, Lucy, where have you gone? I actually enjoyed the station signature tags b/c they were music. Now everything is generic and half baked.

    As a friend put it, they are forgetting who their true competition is anymore: the might iPod and its brethren. With on my way to a full 60gigs of music and 1000’s of podcasts my XM days may be numbered if they don’t get their heads out of the ***es.

  4. I have Sirius and LOVE IT…… very limited commercials on comedy, news, and no commercials on music. I loathe riding in cars without it. Driving to CANADA…sure… I’ll drive and pay for gas.

  5. oh….. and Lithum channel of nothing but grunge from early 90’s rock is better than Ethel..and no deejays.

  6. As long as Howard Stern is on Sirius, I’ll be a subscriber. He and his gang keep me company on my drive to work every morning and I love them!

  7. I can’t access the station list at the moment, but I will flip a lid if they canned the dance stations. XM80 is already gone, and if they killed off 81 or The System, I’ll kill off my subscription.

    Oh and I’ve been a subscriber (and off/on investor) since 2000

  8. I agree entirely. I am afraid that the “harsher” side of Sirius is invading XM. Below is a note I sent today to the folks at their POTUS channel via this feedback page.


    I understand that with the merger there are many programming changes that occur.

    I wanted to let you know that I am concerned about the direction of the POTUS channel. This morning at 8:30 EST it was very jarring to hear a harsh shrill “station identificatioN” for POTUS that then sequed into the “big music” of the morning briefing.

    I also did not enjoy the segment somewhere between 8:35 and 8:45 wtih Pete Dominick interviewing someone about the auto industry. It sounded too much like the shouting heads on cable news. I am not looking for shouting heads in the morning. What I have always enjoyed about POTUS is the in depth interviews and analysis with political insiders. During the election this would involve interviewing Democratic and Republican spokespersons, but not having them on at the same time for an argument. POTUS to me is like an enhanced NPR. If this devolves too much, I may look to cancel my subscription and just return to listening to my local NPR affiliate.

  9. It seems to me, that Sirius has blown off the XM subscribers. Believe it or not (for you younger folk)there are a BUNCH of us older folk out here and we love OUR music as much as you love YOUR music. Much of our music is on the decades channels. In our, personal case, the 50s on 5, which was absolutely gutted by Sirius. Loyal listeners know what I am talking about. If we had wanted the CRASS programming of Sirius, we would have bought Sirius Radio upon is arrival on the scene (after XM). Instead, we added three MORE XM Radios. Now….. Four expensive radios later and we are paying for something we did NOT want and were told would NOT happen! Oh Well… What else is new!!

  10. I understand how XM subscribers feel. I only had Sirius and I have 3 subscriptions. I listened to Disorder constantly and I’m lost. They tried to pawn off the Loft as similar and I’ve been listening 3 days now but….no dice. Not even close.

  11. I canceled today. I have been a subscriber for years. I mostly listened to Ethel, Lucy, and The System. Alt Nation is not even the same. All of the rock stations have annoying DJs now. The playlists are so…FM like. I picked XM initially because their playlists were much deeper.

    It was fun while it lasted. Oh ethel was so great in its hay day pre 2006 – such great music.

    Now I am going to give slacker a spin since there is no other competition in sat radio.

  12. They’ve really blown it this time. George is correct, satradio’s true competition is NOT FM or AM…it’s the Ipod. I’m afraid Sirius (aka Clear Channel lite) has sealed their coffin w/this takeover.

  13. This merger has killed XM radio, in particular Fred and Ethel, but also 60’s on 6, Chrome and other stations.

    I listen to a wide variety of channels – regardless of your genre, the playlists (based on my informal polling of friends) have gotten shallow, the DJ’s horrible (quit talking on top of songs, would you please??).

    What has happened to Fred and Ethel is so sad – what genius at Sirius/XM felt that we needed 24 hours of Jimmy Buffet but couldn’t take a channel that played a broad range of alternative from circa late 70’s to early 90’s??

    I am giving it a month or so, if it doesn’t improve I guess I will revert to my ipod and listening to NPR.

  14. I’m a little bit surprised this article does not mention the lose of both an old school rap station (Backspin) and disco/classic dance station (Strobe, both Sirius names). The website above is a way of letting Sirius XM know that we want these channels back. The lack of variety in favor gimicky one channel only stations for 3 scared white male rock acts (Bruce, Led, AC/DC…I get keeping the Elvis station for those hardocres) is not tolerable! I like all those guys, but 24 hour channels when there is no station for disco/classic dance is absurd. Please take a look at my petition. Thanks.


  15. Sirius killed Vox, the classical choral/opera station on XM. They did this because of their contract with the Metropolitan Opera. But you could hear choral and opera, on the channel for 24 hours a day programmed by Robert Aubry Davis, a programming genius with an enthusiastic and encyclopedic knowledge of the choral repertoire. They’ve given Mr. Davis 5 hours a week starting from 6 am on Sunday morning, plus another 6 hours of baroque starting at 11 am on Sundays. This station was a gem, and one of the primary reasons I’ve had XM since 2002.

    The XM High Standards channel has sunk a great deal under Sirius programming. It’s mostly Sinatra now. Jonathan Schwartz used to program a wide variety of performers doing the Great American Songbook.

    Though I’m sorely disappointed, I’m keeping my subscription for now and hoping for improvement over time. The company is losing money, and needs some time. Satellite radio, with all those stations, is sounding more and more like the old FM I abandoned years ago. What a tragedy, but I hope they see the light.

  16. Ah, registering complaints about confusing, inferior, irking or boring listening options…I think this is the latest audio deja vu all over again. Solution: internet radio on PCs and new wifi mobile smart gadgets. This is what I do on Live365.com. For a quarter of the present orbital rates, our subscribers have ad free access to thousands of stations, some every bit as good as the current strato faves. For the courageous and open minded, that is.

  17. Over the past six years, I listened almost exclusively to XM Cross-Country. It provided such an intelligent and lively array of new music, including James McMurtry and Drive by Truckers, who sang about a kind of American experience rarely if ever acknowledged in other musical genres. From the elegiac despair in McMurtry’s “Can’t Make it Here,” to songs about shooting grackles off a bird feeder and the Iraq War, the Americana and alternative country performers provided lively, intelligent and humorous insights. Yet Road-Call kept the music grounded in its truck-driver roots, giving it a kind of romance and iconic linkage. Whenever the station played older country music, the songs were clearly touchstones for current performers. As American roots music becomes more widely understood, XM Cross-Country played the best of that distinctively American genre.

    Outlaw Country has been a jarring change. The play list seems to rely much more on the older work of established country singers, such as Randy Travis. The “deep fried in a double wide” show, instead of broadening the audience, makes the music seem provincial and regional. Within the first hour of listening, the DJ offered dressing tips for women—how to avoid looking like “a ho’.” The effect is backward-looking and class-conscious and off-putting.

    I have also noticed the absence of deep tracks that presented artistic depth of performers across all the stations we enjoyed.

    Beyond loosing our favorite station, the elimination of stations that played more cutting edge and cross-over music, i.e. Beyond Jazz and U-Pop, has made us reconsider our membership. XM radio offered more than commercial free music—but an opportunity to explore genres, to hear what other communities are saying, feeling, thinking. My first reaction to the new line-up is that I could pick up the majority of performers at a used-CD store or turn on the radio.

  18. It’s a crying shame that what they’ve done to XM. They got rid of Beyond Jazz so that we can now listen to Watercolors. Unfortunately the latter is the same as over the air FM with their same old tired playlists.

  19. For over 2 years I was an XM customer. Around Nov 12, 2008 I woke up to find that the formats of all my favorite stations had changed, for the absolute worst. Fred, Lucy, Ethel, and XMU. When I called customer service I was told that the formats were the same and that only the labels of the stations were different. I gave it another try and could not tolerate it. This just made me more upset. One of these stations has an annoying female dj that won’t shut the heck up. There is no consistant uninterupted indie kind of music playing anymore -very disapointing. XM Customer Service tried to tell me that ALT Nation would now be all the music I was use to. This station drools. First of all, people who continue to listen to more and more new rock even though they have been out of college for almost 20 years know that it is wrong to label music “altternative”. That says nothing. It’s too generic. No one uses that term anymore except for people that are completely entrenched in no music other than dinasour rock or hardcore thrash. Another example, Fred was the station that would play older stuff like The Cure. Then Ethel & Lucy usually played stuff no older than The Shins. Alt nation rolls it all into one like it’s all the exact same genre. Idiots. Then, Customer service tried to say that Lithium is the same as Lucy was. Perhaps they do both play some seattle grunge from the mid & early nineties -but this was a minority of Lucy’s playlist. They usually played newer stuff then this. Lithium is a completely different direction in that it plays more downtrodden slightly heavier stuff, mainly from the nineties, like Alice in Chains -not a bad band but most of their songs thrash too hard to have been played too often on Lucy. Lithium is not LUCY! Basically, I hate the Channel line-up and to make it more aggravating, customer service hacked that call when I was looking for straight answers. I cancelled around November 22, 2008. Just got a thing in the mail from Dec 7, 2008 them asking me to come back for 4.99 for 3 months OR 6.48 per month for a year. I called them and told them unless they bring back Lucy, Ethel, Fred, XMU & (Suite62-a genre great to have on in background during intimacy)that I wold not be interested and that I hate their current line-up. I feel like my favorite stations have been stolen from me. To me XM is the Grinche who stole christmas. Join me in Boycotting them. Go to pandora.com and see what AT&T cell phone (or sprint) will work with the radio they offer. Most models will even let you wire (not wireless) the audio stream into you car (tape deck or ipod ready). Good luck. But dump XM

  20. What a shame Fred was replaced by what I think is a 4th rate DJ talking over cuts from TIME/LIFE’s “New Wave Hits” compilations. Similar fates for Ethel and Lucy. When my car came with XM 3 years ago I oved it for these channels and other excellent programming…guess its back to the music on my phones SD card.

  21. For many of us who were listeners of satellite radio for years, the change over the past year has been frustrating.

    I finally canceled my subscription and moved over to Slacker Radio which allows me to program all of the music channels exactly as I want them. In a matter of 20 minutes, I had ten great stations with the artists that I like plus a bunch of new ones to discover. After that, I simply downloaded them into the Slacker G2 unit and had great music anywhere at my fingertips.

    Give it a shot!


    P.S. A former fan of Fred recreated the station here: http://www.slacker.com/?sid=stations/10561685/1229906871