Sirius XM Fumbled Channel Merge at the Worst Time

By  |  Friday, November 14, 2008 at 1:28 pm

sirius-xm-mergerNo doubt this is not going to gain me any fans at Sirius XM, but this needs to be said. The company did its subscribers a huge disservice on Wednesday by pushing its massive channel reorganization on its nearly 20 million subscribers with little (if any) warning.

This was a massive mistake for Sirius XM, and its nearly mind-blowing that they didn’t think this through any better, especially considering the company’s financial situation.

The changes have almost been universally criticized among the service’s most loyal users, and the cuts have angered a lot of folks. The most vocal critics seem to come from listeners of Sirius Disorder, a freeform/eclectic station, and from listeners of alternative stations Fred, Ethel, and Lucy and electronica station The System on the XM side.

To put it bluntly, these users are pissed. Within hours of the change, fan boards like were flooded with complaints of their stations being pulled with little if any warning. In fact, the first many learned of the changes were when they turned on their radios.

Sirius XM’s only real attempt at contacting its customers? A 3:30am ET Wednesday e-mail to customers announcing the change. No announcements before then, no messages on the website, nothing. Yes, apparently some DJs were discussing the switch, and rumors began circulating the week previous about the channel merge. However, not everyone reads tech news nor is listening to the radio 24/7.

Anecdotal reports indicate the call centers were flooded with angry customers, some of which went as far as to cancel their subscriptions (several we saw were on multi-radio plans). Sirius XM was apparently offering frustrated subscribers three months free to stay on board, but for some, the way the channel merge was handled was too much to bear.

Why a company who is already struggling to pull a profit would take such a big risk like this seems irresponsible to me. While I am not cancelling my own subscription, I am by no means happy with how I only found out some of my favorite channels were officially gone on Wednesday.

I had no chance to voice my opposition, nor did anyone else. Didn’t the programming department think to actually ask its customers first what they thought of the changes rather than making the decisions around some boardroom table?

Now they are paying the price for this oversight with increased costs due to busier call centers (Forrester once estimated that each call to customer service centers costs an average of $5.50), and comps for unhappy customers, and loss of revenue from cancelling customers.

Programming, and especially Mr. Karmazin, owe its users some kind of explanation as to why this was done this way, and probably an apology. But now I’m beginning to think that the FM-centric Sirius management does not really care, and I’m not the only one.

Man, I had hope for satellite radio when these two companies came together. Now I’m beginning to think that it may have not been such a good idea especially if we’re getting less choice, and now being told what we can and cannot hear.



40 Comments For This Post

  1. Maureen Says:

    I was loyal XM listner.I loved E Entertainment, Take 5 and The City. Now the only entertainment news is on COSMO. Which has terrible programming. I want Yo on E back!!! I am ready to cancel my subscription. I kept XM because of the stations mentioned above. Now that they are gone what’s the point?

  2. Brian Says:

    I need to know if Celtic Crush, the Saturday morning Irish music show hosted by Black 47’s Larry Kirwan will be on air or if it has been cancelled. It was on Sirius Disorder. I guess I’ll find out Saturday morning. Great show.

  3. sirius sub Says:

    just get over it.
    I am a sirius subscriber, and am happy with the changes.
    my vehicle sat-rad receiver quickly updated the programing and moved my presets to their new locations without anything being done on my part.
    they merged…what did you want them to operate it as two separate companies forever?
    I am also a sirius shareholder, and as such, it’s about time that they made the changes.

  4. XM user jdogg Says:

    Your an ASS! You only benifited from the merge, XM people suffer!! 😛

  5. Marcella Says:

    I am not happy with the changes at all. I liked to listen to Moving Easy, now it is gone and the replacement Ecsape is a joke. I will be canceling my service for my IPOD. I have better music!!.

  6. Adam Says:

    Sirius Disorder was not only a place to hear and discover great, eclectic music, it was also a community for many of us, harkening back to something which no longer exists. I really admired Sirius for allowing for this experience in a context where most stations play DJ-less music with no human interaciton. Now there is nothing to set Sirius apart. I am outraged that Sirius suggest fans of Disorder would like The Loft. There is no comparison. I am glad to see that Meg Griffin and Vin Scelsa still have shows but the community we once shared is no longer. Truly a time for mourning.

  7. Andre Says:

    I too am not happy with the new channel lineup. I didn’t naively believe Sirius and XM would continue to operate as two seperate companies, but I thought it would result in greater choice for the consumer in terms of programming & pricing. WRONG! Instead of UNCENSORED music, I get commercial-free local radio! To me, that’s not worth $13 a month, not at all!! I plan on calling Sirus tonight, while I’m not sure I’ll cancel immediately I certainly have no plans of extending my current contract!

  8. Ed Oswald Says:

    With all due respect Sirius Sub, I won’t “get over it.” It wasn’t handled properly, and there was practically no warning. Add to the fact that for all intents and purposes it was XM that saw a lot of the gutting, and you should be able to see why we “on the other side” are a little miffed.

  9. Starkraving Says:

    My five favorite channels on XM were fundamentally altered or excised altogether. (Fred, Lucy, Ethel, XMU, POTUS) No doubt, I (and many other dissatisfied XM customers) will ‘get over it’ in due time, but it would have been nice if listeners had been given the opportunities to provide input on some of these decisions. Or, at very least, it would have been nice to have some kind of official warning goodbye/welcome.

    Every merger comes with these kinds of sacrifices and compromises, but it’s clear that nothing resembling conscious thought went into many of these decisions… more like darts on a corporate dartboard.

    As for the Sirius shareholder and your inexplicable hostility: no worries, we’ll get over it. So your interests were placed over the interests of the customer, no need to gloat about it.

  10. Jeremiah Says:

    This merge is terrible. They distroyed all of my favorites and I didnt even find out till it was to late. The main reason I didnt get Sirius is because there music channels are awful now they have taken over and forced me to listen to them with out giving me the few good things Sirius has (NFL, NASCAR, Playboy and Howard Stern). While Im not canceling now I may not renew when my year is up in August. Im very disappointed in XM for letting this happen.

  11. Mike Says:

    the playlists are fm radio like, more censorship, channels and genres have been removed all together. the company clearly only cares about its profit. I’m happy to see the stock drop. they expect people to keep paying and keep their mouths shut while they destroy the spirit of satradio. I have shut all of mine radios down, I will not stand by while satradio becomes fm radio from space. the whole thing feels like when they reformat fm radio, they do not say anything while the storm blows over and the dissapointed listeners settle for something else. not on my dollar. mel karmazin says by 2012 this company will have a free cash flow in the ammount of one billion dollars. cancel now, go buy a cd of your favorite artist, support the art of music.

  12. Bill Berry Says:

    Amen brother!!! I received an email the day of the change, with the exception of a NASCAR promo announcing it’s permanent new home on XM 128; didn’t hear a peep. Every afternoon between 4 pm and 6pm ET, I enjoy Good Acoustics from my desk at work – Wednesday, zilch; Thursday, it might as well been folk music for two hours, and Friday – Good Acoustics. What annoys the crap out of me about this is there was no mention, no warning of the changes, and I don’t mind being told the changes. On XM we got a diet of ads from the AD council starting this week and then Wednesday, the changes came down, but still you’d think if they were going to make the level of changes they did, you’d think both services would have at least got their respective channel lineups identical to the best of their abilities. I don’t expect uniformity from channel 1 to channel 250; but how hard is it to at least make the attempt? As for Sirius XM itself – three words, “A La Carte” – For all you Howard Stern listeners, God Bless all of you, but I don’t want to listen to him, or Playboy on Radio (TV, I’m cool with) and ask myself what idiot at Sirius pays any talent $100 million dollars a year; a year! I don’t need 250 channels; give me 12 channels for $5.00 a month and you will have a subscriber for life. There is no reason that Sirius XM cannot create a number of packages and make it affordable for everybody. Right now, if I want to listen to the NFL and XM (which I pay $12.95) it will cost me $16.99 a month. It wasn’t that long ago we were paying $9.99 and for the brain trust at Sirius XM – there’s a reason why they provide on their displays artist and song information – No commercial, no promos, no anything – I know what channel I’m listening to, I can read it! Muzak/DMX on Dish Network…has no interruptions, nada! They can do it, y’all can do it too!

  13. Bert Says:

    I signed up with Sirius to hear Howard Stern, but after listening to Disorder for more than 2 years, only bringing it back will keep me as a customer.
    If Disorder does not come back, I will be canceling my three subscriptions.
    Is there a way to do this online, or do I need to make a call?
    It looks like someone is letting the bean-counters program the music and is ignoring the “paying” customers.
    The reprogramming/downsizing so reeks of terrestrial radio. I guess the best that I can hope for is that after Sirius goes bankrupt someone else will re-re-invent satellite radio for the better.

  14. Damn Greg Says:

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! Go wash your pussies.

  15. Steve Says:

    we cancelled our subscription. This whole merger is more of what is wrong with business today. We won’t give our money to companies that don’t meet our needs and wants. Every station we enjoyed is gone. Sirius can fold for all we care.

  16. disorderly dave Says:

    Sounds like XM and Sirius subscribers all feel shafted with a few notable, and not too pleasant, exceptions. I am a Sirius subscriber and Disorder is the gem they took from me. Changes to Pure Jazz and the reggae channel are also concerns. The way the re-programming was handled is inexcusable as is the total lack of customer service/response to the changes. Email replies from Sirius are cut-and-paste. In light of the latest news on the economy it sure seems like a bad time to be pissing off subscribers and shareholders alike.

  17. bjf Says:

    Longtime XM subscriber I cancelled all my radios yesterday.
    XM has been ruined by Sirius.
    All my favorite channels were deleted and the great XM hosts gone.
    Fred, Soul Street, XMX the list goes on and on….

    This merger should never have been allowed.
    Thanks FCC for screwing Americans.

    Only if XM returns with it’s XM channels and hosts will my money return.
    At this point SiriusXM isn’t worth a cent.


  18. WHM Says:

    I am so on board with the XM subscribers. I lost Fred (first wave sucks, nothing but dance club music I haven’t heard The Jam, Clash, Ramones once yet) Ethel, Luxy, Squizz, Fungus XM Saturday Night, that was my all time favorite show, I would make sure I was home on Saturday in time for it (I am older, no partying here 😉 )

    I am considering no renewal in January. If I wanted to hear FM like radio, well, thats free. Oh and thanks for the single artists stations.. NOT.

  19. RockHead Says:

    So, I’m not the only one who feels that Sirius is top pop 40 from space. Shame. A real pity and shame. I am NOT canceling my subscription as the alternative to music in the car is just too hideous to contemplate but that Starmate 5 will fit nicely on my dash with the a la carte subscription. Way to go, Mel.

  20. steveiej Says:

    I guess the NAB was right after all. We ended up with less choice and at the same cost. So prices increased. I wish I could take back all of those letters I wrote to the FCC under different names. With the loss of Sirius Disorder. I can cancelled 2 subs.

    Looking at getting a Slacker for XMAS.

  21. KBC Says:

    Sirius is and has been a pile of crap when it came to music. I truly enjoyed the music offered by XM and it pains me to listen to that heap of trash now….They really should of been wary when they did this, at least consider the customer’s opinion when it came to the stations they axed….

  22. Fed Up Says:

    Well, you can bet I will cancel my subscription if Lucy isnt added back. Lithium… give me a break.. I am one of the few have both, XM and Sirius, the Sirius has been a freebie because I bought a Jeep. There is no comparison between XM and Sirius.. I would have paid $20 for XM… if they dont bring back my channels (Lucy, Fred, Ethel), I will cancel.. play my Ipod… talk about a horrible integration of two companies… these guys are idiots..

  23. Not So Sirius Says:

    I can’t believe that with the amount of money that is derived from subscriptions that this “merger” would have resulted in a wholesale upsetting of programming. I’m too young to have experienced the dawn of FM radio, but from what I gather through the fond reflections of people in their 40’s or 50’s that it was a true sea change in music and culture. Maybe it’s time to put an FM antenna on the roof and see what sort of college FM stations I can pull in. After all, the point of going to Sirius was to avoid all of this crap! I can hardly stand commercial radio as it is and really don’t want to cancel my subscription, but this could have been managed so much better.

  24. dave Says:

    For all those mourning the loss of Sirius Disorder please join the Bring Back Disorder Facebook Group.

    There is a message board there with posts from Vin Scelsa, Rick Allison and a community of frustrated people who would like to see the return of Disorder.

  25. Chuck Says:

    I am a Sirius customer and frankly I’m pissed! This merger is complete garbage. I thought that the intent of the merger was to upgrade and enhance both Sirius and XM. I don’t understand how deleting channels on both networks is an upgrade. Like several of you have expressed, I could care less about Sirius’ or XM’s premium packages. My primary reason for listening to Sirius was for the existing programming they had. My favorite station Channel 43 ‘Backspin’ has been totally wiped out. Sirius informed me that Shade 45 or Hip-Hop Channel 40 would be the equivalent. How? They seldom play old school hip-hop. I don’t understand the thought process in determining what stations stayed and what stations were deleted. If this was XM and Sirius’ plan for saving their respective companies, then they need to start the fire sale now. No one is going to accept this. Quite frankly, if this is what I can expect from the merger going forward, you can count me out. I’d rather listen to my old scratched up mix CDs than listen to the current selections on Sirius XM. Then to make matters worse, I have discovered that many of the songs are being censored. I had to check the other day to ensure that I was actually on satellite and NOT FM radio. Moreover, considering that I heard the SAME crap song and artists that I hear on FM radio. The radio stations in my city don’t even play Kanye West, T-Pain or Lil Wayne as much as they do on satellite now. 13 dollars a month to hear Mtv and VH-1 is NOT worth the expense!

  26. Jeff Says:

    Like others, I wasn’t happy with the changes at all. I use to listen to Moving Easy, now it is gone and the replacements listed on the Sirius website are a joke, especially XM Escape. So, I canceled my service.

    I also had an XM subscription and listened to The Heart, well that’s gone too and the replacement is Sirius Love, which I never really liked so I canceled that also. No doubt the FCC in their non-infinite wisdom is partially to blame.

  27. Mike Gentile Says:

    Fantasic article by Ed Oswald.
    It is right on.
    I however cancelled my supcription after 5 years.

  28. Jay Armstrong Says:

    The best thing to do is to cancell your service. Allot of people have done this. You can always come back in a month or two. Cancelling your service will send a statement to Sirius about there absurd we don’t care what you think attitude.I agree with Jeff,I loved the Heart and Movin Easy.

  29. Bob Says:

    I am super sad about the loss of Fred, Lucy and Ethel. I’ve tried hard to get on board with First Wave, Lithium, whatever, but the new channels really are terribly repetitive and don’t play what I consider to be especially “alternative” music as evidenced by a proliferation of R.E.M. on three stations at once on a long drive last week. Sadly, I live in a rural, mountain state – West-by-god-Virginia, and so terrestrial radio isn’t an option. I picked XM over Sirius six years ago because of Fred, and I even bought stock in the company (which has now indicated that it is about to issue over four million additional shares, making me seriously question the long-term viability of this new venture). I am a ridiculous user, in that I have five receivers on the family plan. Now, I’ll keep the service for myself, but my family in DC (two of the receivers) can get the same thing on FM now, so why bother paying for their subscriptions?

    I’ll admit, I’m a music snob. That’s the point though. I PAY for radio. If I want to listen to the same songs over and over, I can just use my iPod. Right now, I’m betwixt and between, but I’ll probably cancel a couple of subscriptions because it just isn’t worth it.

  30. dropsiriusxm Says:

    if you are dissapointed with the merger check out this site my subsriptions are cancelled as of dec 24th goodbye radio executives!!

  31. Mark Says:

    I am also very upset about how these eliminations were handled. It’s shows that Sirius XM doesn’t care about its customers, who happen to PAY for this service. Lack of timely communication,input from the customer and horrific customer service are UNACCEPTABLE!


  32. dropsiriusxm Says:

    To cancel your service, call 1 888 539 7474, go through the automated crap, when asked, say “manage account”. you will be transfered to a human at which point you will tell them you wish to cancel your service due to the recent channel change. you will be transferred to an english speakind rep, tell them the same reason for cancelling. at this point they will offer you free service if you stay connected. decline, they will suggest you shut off all but one radio(if this applies). they will again offer free service for a month or two. decline. this is a tactic for them to keep your credit card on file. you will not be listed as cancelled. to be heard you must cancel. set up the shut off date to be your monthly renew date and you will be refunded on any time remaining. It is not the end of the world. I know its hard, but their are many other alternatives. say goodbye to satelite radio the same way you said goodbye to fm radio.

  33. StillMad Says:

    I love one of the initial responses “just get over it”. This seems to be the same mentality shared by the management of this merged company. Well, I did just get over it… with my wallet. I cancelled radios 3 plus enhanced internet radio because of the new channel lineup. I was most upset over the loss of Boombox and Backspin.
    My guess is they looked at the total average listeners for each station, not taking into account that an account such as mine, with 3 radios, never on at the same time, all listened to the same channels.

  34. Kilustration Says:

    Just called XM @ 877-228-9058 informed them to stop the automatic renewal process of my subscription. They “remind” you that the sirius stations that replaced the xm ones (Lucy/lithium) are the “same”, just renamed – what a crock.

  35. Brian Ely Says:

    Diversity of ownership in the media has been one of my gripes. As media providers get bigger and bigger, they keep working toward the lowest common denominator. They appeal to as wide a market as possible and anything outside that mainstream gets left out. I’ve never been personally screwed by a media merger…until now. You suck Sirius.

  36. The System Says:

    I had the free trial. I would have subscribed pre-merger. After the change, forget it. That’s just me.

  37. Jeff Says:

    JOIN THE GROWING NUMBER OF SIRIUS AND XM SUBSCRIBERS WHO PLAN ON SENDING A STRONG MESSAGE TO THE MGMT OF SIRIUS XM BY CANCELLING THEIR SUBSCRIPTIONS ON DECEMBER 17, 2008. This is the only way they will take our comments/concerns seriously (no pun intended) and bring back the channels we used to pay for. Chrome, Fred, Lucy and many others need to come back ASAP! Otherwise, my 3 XM subscriptions are being cancelled on December 17.

  38. Tag Says:

    Of course sirius subscribers are happy with this, sirius siriusly sucked to begin with and now they have better programming because of the merger. sirius has taken advantage of the loyalty Xm listeners have shown. Now the low class trash on sirius is being forced onto Xm customers. This is a prime reason why this merger which created the Monopoly of sirius should not have been approved.

  39. tsmt01 Says:

    Bravo on this article! One thing being mentioned in xmfan is the bandwidth constraint on what all can be piped up to (now one) range of channels on the satelite. I was actually told in the first reply I got from Sirius XM mgmt that this was one reason for dropping a number of channels. They could keep them, but then sound quality suffers overall as further compression algorithms have to be used. Either way it made for some crummy business decisions and I feel no need to sanction this with continuing my subscription at its current level.

  40. jeo Says:

    1st wave is the worst possible replacement for Fred. I can’t complain enough to Sirius XM. Not sure what it would require to bring it back. I assume losing the dj centric 1st Wave would be a money saver.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Sirius XM Stoops to a New Low: Reinforcing Stereotypes | Technologizer Says:

    […] all:&nbspNews It’s no secret that a lot of satellite radio users are quite unhappy with the merger of Sirius and XM. Sirius XM has taken a beating for its questionable programming decisions, as well as its sometimes […]