I love the service, but Sirius Satellite Radio provides a bad experience for subscribers who listen over the internet. The reasons are, poor quality audio, restricted access to certain channels (i.e Howard 100) and lack of features such as playlists. The reason Siruis provides bad service is because they are concerned about subscription piracy. This entry will explain the three main problems with Sirius Satellite Radio’s internet service for subscribers and why they exist.
Problem: Sirius provides a poorly designed flash-based interface for listening on the web. The flash Sirius player lacks proper internet radio features such as playlists and links to artist information.
Solution: Abandon flash interface and use a database driven page that offers information about what is being broadcast along with multiple audio streams. An example of a station that has a great internet radio offering is Seattle’s KEXP.org. KEXP offers a fully archived song playlist along with DJ comments.
Problem: Sirius provides a very low quality, 32kb st
ream for internet listeners. This point is wholly unacceptable because bandwidth is very cheap, especially in bulk. Rather than provide their subscribers high quality internet streams you get the same low quality sound you get driving around in your
Solution: Offer quality streams of all major technologies for each channel. For the record, Sirius’s internet broadcast quality is less than one-third the standard bit-rate offered by internet radio stations. They need to offer each channel in Windows Media Player, Real Audio and mp3 formats.
Problem: Sirius restricts what you can listen to using the web. That’s right, you pay for a full subscription, but NPR, Sports, a number of entertainment channels and most importantly Howard 100 and Howard 101 are all blocked to Internet listeners.
Solution: Open the channels up for listening. Only negotiate contracts for content (i.e Stern) that allow Sirius to rebroadcast on the web.
of these problems seem to have rather simple fixes, a little money and development effort would turn their internet listening offering into a value-add to their service, so why don’t they fix these? I believe it is because of Piracy and Product Branding.
Why these Problems Exist: Lack of Proper Authentication and Audio Quality.
Sirius’s weak authentication methods do little to affirm that internet listeners are payed subscribers. In the case of a Sirius enabled receiver, such as the Starmate Replay ST2, Sirius locks a paid subscription to the device’s unique hardware ID when you sign up. This means I can not put a Siruis enabled deck in my mom’s car and have her get free listening using my subscription.
On the web, however, there is no hardware ID. Sirius relies on a username / login to listen to Sirius on the web. While only a paying member can log into their internet player, if I gave my account information to my friend Dave Peixotto, he could log in and listen to Sirius in Houston for free. In fact, we can even listen at the same time using the same account.
The solution would be to require users to register two IP’s, home and work for Sirius Internet listening, and monetize internet users. This could easily be done by offering “buy it now” links to artists in the playlists.
The poor audio quality offering is probably because they don’t want to highlight the fact that Satellite radio is really a low quality offering right now. Offering a 128kbps would mean that subscribers would use the internet streaming whenever possible. The option of a valid internet listening experience make the use of a reciever redundant for many, which would be detrimental to the reciever manufacturers.
Beating the System
What to do for people like me, who don’t have an office with an outside window and want to listen to Stern or other non-streaming Sirius stations over the web?
Stay tuned. in my next entry, I will describe how to listen to Howard Stern at work over the internet using your pre-exisiting Sirius subscription.