The Bear Case for Sirius XM

The bear thesis for Sirius XM can be laid out in the form of heightened competition, consumer adoption, and the macro environment including auto sales.

Jun 24, 2014 at 11:00AM

Sirius XM(NASDAQ:SIRI) is a fundamentally strong company with stellar subscriber and free cash flow growth. However, the company has recently seen a big increase in its short interest. Whiel I am personally bullish on Sirius XM, I decided to put myself in the shoes of the short sellers and explore the bearish thesis for Sirius XM. The three major headwinds surrounding Sirius XM are: 

Rising competition
Sirius XM's competition in the music streaming space is constantly on the rise. Increasingly, consumers have a wide array of options available from companies with large consumer followings -- Pandora(NYSE:P)Apple, iHeart Radio, Spotify, and recently Amazon. In addition, AM/FM Radio has more than 200 million weekly users, so the competition is definitely in place. 

Internet-enabled radio is growing rapidly and Pandora is leading the way. At the end of May 2014, Pandora had 77 million monthly active users, and the company even stated that it is pushing for more penetration in cars where it has 5 million active users already. 

However, Pandora competes more directly against Internet radio players and terrestrial radio because of its extensive focus on music. Sirius XM's service contains more than 140 million channels with substantial unique content. Sirius XM's biggest competitive advantage is clearly the exclusive content that it provides to its users.

Consumer adoption of pay radio
Sirius XM already has more than 25.8 million subscribers but it is unclear how many customers the company can get over the long run. U.S.-based customers are accustomed to terrestrial radio and it's reasonably hard to figure out how many consumers will adopt pay radio over the long run. 

There are roughly 260 million autos in the U.S. and Sirius XM's future subscriber growth is contingent upon the company's ability to grow its current penetration levels. Many consumers prefer free ad-supported radio and other Internet-based services, so there is a question mark regarding the company's ability to grow its subscriber growth significantly from current levels. However, the company needs only a small fraction of the total U.S. auto population to grow its business significantly from its current level of under 26 million subs. 

Dependence on the auto market
Sirius XM's business is heavily correlated with new auto sales and, therefore, the  the broader macro-economic environment. New auto sales stood at 10.4 million in 2009, with 16.1 million expected in 2014. However, if the lumpy auto market declines because of economic headwinds, this might negatively affect Sirius XM's subscriber additions. 

However, the satellite radio company has continued to grow its penetration rate for new autos. Back in 2009, Sirius XM was enabled in 56% of all new autos and in the last quarter the penetration rate stood at 70%. Owing to its very strong relationships with almost all OEMs, the company has managed to install its satellite radios in many vehicles and hand out free trials to consumers, irrespective of the number of new car sales in the U.S. 

The bottom line
Sirius XM has a fantastic business and should continue to perform well despite the concerns bears have. The company has strong subscriber growth, a focus on optimizing free cash flow, and shrinking its outstanding share count through buybacks. The company has a solid moat due to its long-standing ties to all major OEMs and its exclusive content, and both of those things are very hard to replicate for existing and future competitors. Sirius XM shorts might be prompted to cover their positions in the future.

Leaked: This coming device has every company salivating
The best investors consistently reap gigantic profits by recognizing true potential earlier and more accurately than anyone else. Let me cut right to the chase. There is a product in development that will revolutionize not just how we buy goods, but potentially how we interact with the companies we love on a daily basis. Analysts are already licking their chops at the sales potential. In order to outsmart Wall Street and realize multi-bagger returns, you will need The Motley Fool’s new free report on the dream-team responsible for this game-changing blockbuster. CLICK HERE NOW.


Ishfaque Faruk owns shares of Sirius XM Radio. The Motley Fool recommends Pandora Media. The Motley Fool owns shares of Pandora Media and Sirius XM Radio. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers