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Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 28, 2021, 8:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Operator

Good morning, and welcome to SiriusXM third quarter 2021 financial and operating results conference call. Today's conference is being recorded. [Operator instructions] At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Hooper Stevens, senior vice president, investor relations and finance. Please go ahead.

Hooper Stevens -- Senior Director, Investor Relations and Finance

Thank you, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to SiriusXM's third quarter 2021 earnings conference call. Today, we will have prepared remarks from Jennifer Witz, our chief executive officer; and Sean Sullivan, our chief financial officer. Scott Greenstein, our president and chief content officer, will join Jennifer and Sean to take your questions.

I would like to remind everyone that certain statements made during the call might be forward-looking statements as the term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These and all forward-looking statements are based upon management's current beliefs and expectations and necessarily depend upon assumptions, data or methods that may be incorrect or imprecise. Such forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. For more information about those risks and uncertainties, please view Sirius XM's SEC filings and today's earnings release.

We advise listeners to not rely unduly on forward-looking statements and disclaim any intent or obligation to update them. As we begin, I would like to advise our listeners that today's results will include discussions about both actual results and adjusted results. All discussions of adjusted operating results exclude the effects of stock-based compensation and certain purchase price accounting adjustments. With that, I'll hand the call over to Jennifer.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, and good morning. SiriusXM's third quarter was nothing less than phenomenal. 616,000 self-pay net subscriber additions is the highest quarterly figure we've ever recorded. It was powered by, among other things, conversion stemming from the second quarter's record high trial starts and continued low churn of just 1.5% in the third quarter.

We attained our full year subscriber guidance in just nine months, even after taking it up by 38% on our last earnings call to approximately 1.1 million net self-pay subscriber additions. Truly remarkable. Our financial performance was also remarkable. We delivered the highest revenue and highest adjusted EBITDA of any quarter in our history.

Our revenue was bolstered by steady subscription revenue growth and outstanding growth of more than 30% in our ad revenue. We invested across our business, particularly in marketing, content, and digital product and capabilities, to strengthen our leadership position in audio, but still managed to grow adjusted EBITDA in line with revenue. Today, once again, we are increasing all of our 2021 financial guidance, and we are taking up our expectation for full year subscriber growth modestly. Because of the well-known supply constraint hitting the auto industry, the new car SAAR went from nearly 17 million in the first half to 13 million in the third quarter.

The spike in used car prices and limited inventory has caused volumes to fall there, too, albeit to a lesser extent. Our new car trial starts fell 21% in the third quarter from the second quarter's record high and used car trial starts fell 6% sequentially. This means that the fourth quarter will see more than 1 million fewer conversion opportunities than we saw in the third quarter, meaningfully reducing but not eliminating our ability to grow our self-pay base in the near term. Based on their public comments, most automakers and industry forecasters believe the timeline to recover from supply chain-related issues is sometime between midyear 2022 and early 2023.

Most expect recovery from these issues to be gradual next year as opposed to a sharp bounce back. With extremely healthy year-to-date subscriber performance and strong loyalty among our customers, we are availing ourselves of the opportunity to increase the promotional pricing floor for some subscribers in addition to a modest price increase on certain full-price plans. We believe that these steps to drive revenue are in the best interest of the business long term and reinforce the value of SiriusXM's premium subscription packages, but they also come at a slight cost in near-term subscriber growth. As we navigate the current environment and take those steps to drive revenue, we remain intensely focused on advancing the three key strategic growth objectives discussed on our last call.

First, we intend to continue winning in car. Second, we are determined to substantially increase engagement of SiriusXM outside of the car, both with existing subscribers and new ones that may be digital only. Third, we will continue to grow our digital audio advertising business which is unmatched in North America, both in size and capabilities. And of course, advancing these strategic goals will be enabled by the market-leading content we create and curate in close collaboration with renowned talent and brands.

We are making outstanding progress on all of these fronts, and I'm particularly excited by the volume and quality of new content we've recently announced, which I will highlight shortly. In car, we are continuing to win with higher penetration and improved service with 360L. Our new car penetration was more than 81% in the third quarter, up from 78% a year prior. As one example of how automakers remain committed to providing SiriusXM as an entertainment option for their customers, we recently signed a multi-year extension with Mercedes-Benz that includes plans for higher penetration rates.

And remember, our service is getting even better with all of the new features, functionality, and content made possible by 360L. Significant 360L volumes are now rolling out across nine automakers, including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Stellantis, and Volkswagen and more are on the way. Just yesterday, we announced the new Range Rover will feature SiriusXM with 360L as standard equipment and that it will also be included in most upcoming Jaguar and Land Rover models. This new platform more closely integrates the car experience with what our subscribers are doing on mobile, and it lets us provide additional content, personalized recommendations and makes it easier to transact with SiriusXM.

All of this is helpful in a competitive audio market and, in particular, with younger generations of car buyers. We continue to have a leading position in car, both in terms of our best-in-class user experience and our significant share of year, and we are poised to benefit from the rebound in new car sales. On the digital side, we are making substantial progress getting existing in-vehicle subscribers to engage with SiriusXM outside of the car, which enhances the value proposition of and overall satisfaction with our service. This effort starts early while listeners are still in trial and out-of-car listening has become a strong predictor of in-vehicle conversion and retention.

Our subscribers' total monthly listening to SiriusXM on average nearly doubled when they also listen outside of the car, and this listening is 100% incremental to what is being done in car. And as I mentioned this summer, our research shows that subscribers who say SiriusXM is their No. 1 source for audio outside the car has doubled in the past three years. We are also investing more than ever in digital subscriptions not tied to a vehicle.

The SXM app has been rebranded and updated, and we now have an extensive array of programming that is exclusive to the digital environment. In late summer, we began allowing digital subscription purchases directly in the iOS and Android versions of the SXM app, which makes it easier for consumers to subscribe to our packages. This will increase the appeal of our digital trials to younger, more diverse audiences and makes for less friction when converting to a self-pay subscription. To support growth and awareness of our digital offering, in September, we launched our largest-ever nationwide multi-platform advertising campaign, SiriusXM House, which brings to life the diversity that lives on our platform.

It shows how audio legends, emerging creators, and superstar athletes can all be heard on SiriusXM in unique and engaging format and how our content can be consumed anywhere on mobile phones, smart speakers, and other connected devices. The trade and consumer reception has been positive, and the campaign has increased app downloads along with lots of social engagement between artists and fans. While our subscription business continues its steady growth, on the advertising sales front, we grew revenue 31% year over year in the third quarter, and we continue to build our ad platform in a variety of ways. In the past 12 months alone, our scaled user base, podcasting business, and ad monetization capabilities powered by best-in-class ad tech and sales teams has generated $1.7 billion in revenue.

At SXM Media, our umbrella ad sales organization, we're using data to deliver superior solutions for advertisers with a reach of 150 million listeners across live radio, streaming, and podcasting, always keeping listener privacy and experience a top priority. We're operating from a position of strength and less reliant on third-party identifiers because we activate a rich first-party data set. Since the launch of SXM Media, we have closed a number of significant advertising deals with major brands crossing all of our platforms and ad formats. Underpinning our strength in car and out of car in both subscriptions and ad-supported audio is, of course, our content.

It will always be the core of what we do. And during the third quarter, we demonstrated our focus and execution with new talent and distribution deals across the SiriusXM, Pandora, and Stitcher platforms. On SiriusXM, we launched multiple new and limited-time streaming channels based on iconic beloved artists, established and emerging, such as the ones for Bon Jovi, Grateful Dead, Halsey, Metallica and SoundCloud Radio. We celebrated Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month recently across SiriusXM and Pandora with new channels and initiatives, highlighting artists like J Balvin, Andres Calamaro, Becky G, and many more.

We're seeing success in multi-platform deals where we have established podcasters beginning to do live shows on SiriusXM. For instance, the host of the last podcast on the left will be doing a weekly call-in show on SiriusXM's Faction Talk channel starting early next year. And also the other way, where we bring live broadcast shows to broader podcast distribution. For example, fans can hear directly from Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald immediately on SiriusXM each week, and then those individual conversations are later available as podcasts on multiple platforms, expanding our audience even wider.

While we will remain financially disciplined, we have been opportunistically bringing major podcasting talent to SiriusXM's platform and securing exclusive ad sales rights. To name just a few, Crime Junkie, the top-ranked podcast for colored nerds, Storytime with Seth Rogen, last podcast on the left, 99% Invisible, the Bellas and Rory and Mal. We recently led the Series B financing for Audio Up, an innovative podcast and audio entertainment studio. Under the agreement, Audio Up will create new original scripted podcasts for our platform, and SiriusXM gets an exclusive first look option for new concepts as well as distribution and sales opportunities.

Whether growing in existing but niche audience, expanding a powerhouse brand and audio or supporting audio superstars throughout their careers, SiriusXM's platforms give creators opportunities to flourish in unmatched ways. And we continue to see curation, both human and AI augmented, as the cornerstone of delivering unique experiences for our listeners, be that on SiriusXM or Pandora or across our podcasting business. A great example of this is our close collaboration with U2 to build selectable modes on Pandora centered around U2's first three albums. The band members walk our listeners through a unique experience, sharing stories behind the making of each album and guide our listeners to other classic songs from the artists who influenced each of them.

These modes were launched as a follow-up to U2's full-time SiriusXM channel and show how we can leverage the strength of our multiple platforms to benefit artists and create great content, truly a competitive differentiator. And I'm thrilled we're producing live content and experiences again with our Small Stage Series, which features music and comedy performances in iconic intimate venues. We've recently hosted Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile, Coldplay, J. Cole, comedian John Mulaney, and we just announced upcoming shows at the Apollo with HER and Alicia Keys.

As SiriusXM now celebrates the 20th anniversary of our service launch, we can rightfully say that we have transformed the way Americans consume entertainment inside the vehicle. We are now hard at work growing that reach outside of the vehicle, expanding our advertising business and continuing to shape the future of audio with further innovation and investments in new kinds of content and authentic audio experiences. I'm incredibly proud that our listeners love SiriusXM's offerings and of our company's very powerful and profitable business model. I couldn't be more pleased with our position and the long-term opportunities that sit in front of us.

With that, I will turn it over to Sean for additional remarks.

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jennifer, and good morning, everyone. To quickly hit some financial highlights. Total revenue increased 9% to $2.2 billion, led by 31% growth in consolidated ad revenue. Adjusted EBITDA grew 9% to $719 million, a new quarterly record.

Diluted earnings per share were $0.08 versus $0.06 in Q3 2020. We generated $588 million of free cash flow during the third quarter, which included $208 million of insurance proceeds related to SXM-7. As of quarter end, we have received all $225 million available under the policy. We have also entered into contracts for SXM-9 and SXM-10 and have commenced early stage capex spend for these satellites.

Turning to our segments. In the SiriusXM segment, revenue increased 5% to $1.66 billion with ARPU growth of 5% to $14.84. Revenue grew in line with ARPU because the self-pay subscriber base increase of 1.5 million year over year was offset by a decline in paid trials versus last year's third quarter, given new trial structures at two major OEMs and a lower SAAR. Gross profit in the SiriusXM segment grew 4% to $1 billion, resulting in a gross margin of 61%.

In the Pandora segment, advertising revenue of $404 million increased 32% from last year and grew 28% compared to the same period in 2019. Pandora's ad revenue per 1,000 hours was a stellar $109, up 29% from $84 in the third quarter last year. Revenue growth in the Pandora segment was aided by our off-platform business centered around AdsWizz and AdWave and by the addition of Stitcher. Together, these contributed $89 million of revenue in the third quarter, and excluding Stitcher, grew 41% year over year.

As a reminder, Stitcher was acquired in October 2020. Ad bookings were again impressive in Q3 with financial services and retail leading as the largest categories. Insurance companies are targeting major lifestyle changes as people continue to relocate and change jobs. Retail momentum is tied to the economic reopening as people head back to stores and shopping malls come back to life.

Entertainment is also showing strong growth given increased streaming competition and the expectation of a back-to-normal holiday season with big-budget movie releases. Pandora monthly active users and total ad-supported listening hours were 53 million and 2.9 billion, respectively, and average monthly hours per ad-supported user were 20.1 in the third quarter, up from 19.5 a year prior. Pandora ended the third quarter with 6.5 million total self-pay subscribers. Gross profit in the Pandora segment grew 22% over the third quarter of 2020, while gross margin was flat at 37%.

Turning to capital allocation. As announced earlier this week, we are increasing our quarterly dividend by 50%. The 50% increase is driven by our continued confidence in the company's strong operating results and cash generation, and this increase will better align our dividend yield with the broader market. Through the first three quarters of 2021, we returned approximately $1.35 billion of capital to stockholders comprised of $1.17 billion in stock repurchases and $180 million in dividends.

Over the summer, we took advantage of very favorable credit markets to issue $4.5 billion of new senior unsecured notes across five, seven, and 10-year maturities at a weighted average interest rate of roughly 3.75%. Proceeds were used to refinance existing notes, reducing future interest costs and extending maturities as well as eliminating the outstanding balance on our revolving credit facility, which we also extended until August 2026. At quarter's end, our $1.75 billion revolver was completely undrawn and we had $164 million of cash and equivalents on hand. In short, we have a very strong balance sheet and one that provides significant flexibility to continue investing in the business, making opportunistic investments and acquisitions and delivering cash to our stockholders.

To recap our new higher full year guidance in this morning's release, we now expect self-pay net additions to exceed 1.1 million. Revenue is expected to be $8.65 billion and adjusted EBITDA is now expected to be approximately $2.75 billion. Our free cash flow guidance has increased to more than $1.8 billion, which is driven by the higher adjusted EBITDA in satellite insurance recoveries, partially offset by spending on new satellites and programming investments. With that, we will open up to Q&A.

Questions & Answers:


Operator

[Operator instructions] Your first question comes from Steven Cahall from Wells Fargo.

Steven Cahall -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Jennifer, maybe first, I was wondering if you could elaborate on the comment you made about the promotional floor and the price increases. It sounds like it's a little bit less on the new car side next year, you're going to try to drive a revenue acceleration. And I guess set costs should be down on that as well. So is it logical for us to include that you might have kind of a one-off year for EBITDA or free cash flow growth next year based on that commentary? And then, Sean, at the beginning of the year, investors were a little bit concerned about the initial free cash flow guide.

And now you've raised a couple of times and it looks really strong. So maybe just a few comments on what's changed as you've moved through the year? Is this related to the satellite recovery? Is it just good operating performance? I would love any context on the free cash flow raises. Thanks very much.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Thanks, Steven. I'll take your first question on promotional prices. So we're actually doing two things in the fourth quarter.

We're doing a rate increase on some of our full-price packages. And as you've seen, we've done this over time, and our base, as you know, has been very sticky and loyal. So we've been able to pass through these rate increases very effectively in the past. So that will be rolling through into next year.

And then on the promotional side, we just see this as an opportunity given kind of the strong demand and retention of our base to focus on raising some of those rates as well. We have a pretty robust packaging structure from lower price plans all the way up through our PVIP plan that we just launched a couple of months ago. And we are -- we've always been very effective at managing demand across the various price points we have. And we just view this as an opportunity.

I mean, it's somewhat of an inflationary environment. Other services are raising rates. We see it as a positive environment to do this. And while it could have a slight -- a small impact on subscribers, we don't think it's material.

And again, we tend to optimize this very effectively.

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. And, Steve, on your free cash flow guide, I guess as we step back to the beginning of the year, a lot of uncertainty. As we fast forward, obviously, the first half of the year was incredibly strong in terms of our operating performance, especially on the SiriusXM side of the business. Operating performance on advertising, as we talked today, continues to be really positive in delivering strong operating performance.

So we've been able to raise our EBITDA guide by almost a couple of hundred million dollars from where we started the year. So really strong operating performance. You look at our free cash flow conversion, continues year-to-date basis to be very strong as well. No question, the insurance recovery is bolstering or assisting a bit in terms of the raise.

We are -- as I said in the comments, we are making investments against SiriusXM 9 and 10, and continue to advance our content and programming initiatives. So all in all, I guess, it's a mix of everything. It's some unexpected occurrences around the satellite. It's incredible performance across both subscription and advertising.

So really pleased with where we're at and where we expect to finish the year.

Steven Cahall -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Thanks very much.

Operator

We will take the next question from Ben Swinburne from Morgan Stanley.

Unknown speaker

Hi. This is Cameron on for Ben. Thanks for taking the question. Churn continues to trend really nicely.

Can you guys talk a little more about what you're seeing there? How much of the 3Q level was driven by vehicle-related churn? And then another one for Sean on capital return. Is $2 billion of capital returns between buybacks and dividends on an annual basis still the right general ballpark to think about going forward? Thanks, guys.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

OK. So, Cameron, first on churn. The third quarter was actually pretty close to the second quarter in terms of churn overall at 1.5. It did round down to 1.5.

As we said in the past, I don't believe this is sustainable in the long term, but we're really pleased about where we are. There were some slight movements and shifts between the categories in Q3 on the nonpay side and the vehicle and the voluntary side. They ticked up a little bit and vehicle-related came down, as you would expect, considering trial starts came down in the third quarter. But no material changes there.

But again, as we go into next year, as spending levels hopefully continue to increase for a healthy consumer set, there could be some reversion to a more normal level of nonpay churn. We are significantly down from where we had been two years ago on nonpay. Some of that I do think sustains just based on the operating improvements we've made. But as, again, consumer spending levels go up, I would expect to see nonpay tick up a bit.

And then, of course, we're hopeful that over the course of next year, the automotive sales continue to be recovering and then we would see some impact on vehicle-related churn there as well. On the voluntary side, again cancel demand has been really low. There's been really strong satisfaction with the product, and I believe that has a lot to do with us having added streaming to our packages a couple of years ago and how effective that's been in this environment where consumers aren't in their cars as much as they had been before and they're listening much more in other locations. Sean, do you want to --

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. And then, Cameron, on the capital returns front, as you know, we put out a release on Monday this week in connection with our announcement to increase the dividend by 50%. So again, just to reiterate the capital allocation philosophy, we're still very focused on growth. We're focused on investing both organically and inorganically to drive the business long term.

We will be guided by the historical leverage where we operate comfortably in the low to mid-threes. So you should expect us to continue to operate on that basis. I think what I provided was an expanded release, an explanation on Monday that hopefully gives you some insights as we move forward prospectively in terms of what type of return to capital. Again, continue and expect to be very strong, both in terms of the dividend and share repurchases.

But again, we want to maintain as much financial and operational flexibility with the balance sheet we have to take advantages of the opportunities as we see them. So I don't know that I would ground you in the $2 billion per se, but I think I've given you enough information relative to our performance and our guidance to manage the expectation going forward.

Unknown speaker

Yes. Great. Thank you, both.

Operator

We'll take the next question from Jessica Reif Ehrlich from Bank of America Securities.

Jessica Reif Ehrlich -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you. I have a question for Scott. Scott, this is podcasting related, as it seems to be the hottest topic these days. As much as a focus as it is, it still seems to be -- podcasting seems to be in the early stages.

What would you consider a full content slate? How long do you think it takes to get there? And what do you think the ultimate margins are in this business?

Scott Greenstein -- President and Chief Content Officer

OK. Thanks. So a couple of things. One is there's certainly plenty of podcasting out there to have a full slate.

The question is, is there enough out there to have a business? And that's what we're trying to build. So by doing something like Crime Junkies, we're going to look at being the leader in certain categories in podcasting, much the way we did with audio sports rights and news and some other things for audio at satellite radio. Some of those will have tougher economics and others will cause young and emerging podcasters to want to come to that vertical. And by doing that, I think we'll be able to have a solid business model with good blended margins on that because, as you know, right now, the podcasting economics is heavily skewed to the creator based on the origin of how podcasting evolve, but we feel pretty good about that.

What we feel great about is that podcasting is a great pool for us to find audio talent. Previously, you had terrestrial radio and you had some bloggers and some YouTube stuff. Now you have this rich pool of audio talent that we draw on. Once they're in, as Jennifer mentioned, the podcasters can go upstream and be radio host as last podcast on the left will happen, whether it's Megyn Kelly or Kevin Hart.

They then go into podcasting from the radio, that way, and all that. So I view it as an emerging business model that we have to pay attention to the margins. But at the same time, our unique three-pronged approach between Sirius, Pandora, and Stitcher to both monetize market and create and figure out how that audio content works in that business model, I feel a lot more confident than I would be today in just an isolated podcast model.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

I think I'd just add two things to that, Scott. I mean the fact that we are offering broad distribution of podcasts to talent who want it, like with Crime Junkie, gives us an opportunity to perhaps more effectively monetize than we would have if we were trying to keep something exclusive. And of course, we'll consider those opportunities. But that certainly helps in terms of the monetization.

And then we look at the ad business internally increasingly together, right? The SiriusXM broadcast ad business, the Pandora, traditionally music station-focused advertising, and then in podcasting. And the sales team has the capabilities to now sell across all of these formats and genres and advertisers. Look, there's a lot of demand out there for audio advertising right now, which is a fantastic tailwind for all of us that are participating. And I think we have the best set of capabilities to be able to bring advertisers these solutions across so many different formats and genres.

So it really positions us well, I think, to better and more effectively monetize. And the margins on each of those are a little different. But overall, we feel really good about where that's heading.

Jessica Reif Ehrlich -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

We will take our next question from Jason Bazinet from Citi.

Jason Bazinet -- Citi -- Analyst

So I just have a quick question. You guys have put up phenomenal numbers this year. Your stock has not reacted to those. And I guess my hypothesis is a lot of investors on the buy side are playing the LSXMA series spread by going along LSXMA and hedging it by shorting our stock.

And it would seem, if that were true, the buyback -- you should be using every dollar you can for buybacks and yet you chose right at that moment to increase your dividend by 50%. And so my question is, do you disagree that something is going on with your share price that has to do with Liberty? Is that the right interpretation?

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

I'll start, and then, Sean, maybe you can jump in. I believe that certainly, we would like to see the stock react more positively to the fantastic results that we've had this year. And I'm sure there is some truth in what you're saying. We believe there is opportunity in the stock, which is why we're maintaining a healthy buyback as part of our capital returns process.

And I think the dividend was just an acknowledgment that we were generally below median for S&P companies. So it kind of puts us in -- right in with -- the mix of where other companies are, but we still have a lot of flexibility to buy back our stock, and I think there's opportunity to do so.

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, Jason. So it's a fair question. Again, we're very confident in the long-term opportunity here. We are deploying significant capital.

As Jennifer said, I think bringing the dividend more in line with sector comparables. I think given the shareholder base -- the non-Liberty shareholder base, I think what we're doing in terms of capital allocation puts us more in line in terms of their expectation. I think it opens us up to more assets under management that are investable against SiriusXM and the stock. So again, it's positive results.

We've got a long-term focus. Of course, we're going to continue to buy back at these levels given our point of view on what we think the long-term intrinsic value is of the stock. So I'm not going to comment on the overhang or how investors are playing the LSXM versus Sirius. But we're obviously focused on continuing to deliver just fabulous operating results, deploying capital appropriately and we think we'll be rewarded long term.

Jason Bazinet -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. Can I just ask one pedantic follow-up. When we're calculating the 80% threshold for the tax sharing agreement to kick in, what do we use as the denominator? Is it your basic shares or your diluted?

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

I believe it's the diluted shares, Jason.

Jason Bazinet -- Citi -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Operator

We will take our next question from David Joyce from Barclays.

David Joyce -- Barclays -- Analyst

Thank you. So the sales and marketing expenses were elevated in the quarter. I think you called out that was in order to drive the podcasting listenership. But what should we expect from that investment going forward, at least through the next year when you're going to be challenged on the gross adds from the new cars? Will you be focusing on more marketing on the enormous installed base of cars in the secondary market as well as podcasting? Just wondering how we should think about that cost item going forward.

Thanks.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

There's really a couple of big portions of sales and marketing. There's all of the direct marketing associated with the trial starts, that's really directly tied to new and used car trial starts. And to the extent that new car trial starts are lower like we saw in the third quarter, that will -- that expense comes down. But we've actually taken the opportunity this year to invest in more media, whether it's performance-based media or like with the SiriusXM House campaign to drive awareness and drive through to trials on the digital side of the business.

So there's really kind of two large components to sales and marketing that you'll see fluctuate based on where we are with trial starts in any given time period and how we're investing on overall media. We do a lot of performance media also on the Pandora side. We've got pretty sophisticated modeling there that helps us decide when and how to invest up to the right threshold to bring listeners onto the platform. And that's pretty steady.

Where you'll see fluctuations is more on the SiriusXM digital side as we try to bring more trials onto the platform for that -- for those packages.

David Joyce -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great. And could you please update us on the effectiveness of bringing in the used car gross adds?

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

So the dynamics on the used car side have been impacted, as I said in my comments, in part by what's going on in the overall industry. Used car sales prices are at an all-time high. So the trial starts were down slightly in Q3 versus Q2. But clearly, they don't -- they're not the same issues from a supply standpoint as on the new car side in terms of chip side and other parts.

So we think that the used car market will continue to be strong going into next year. And our fundamentals certainly help there in terms of just organically, the pen rate continues to grow as more cars in the fleet turns over. And we've got very robust programs on the trial start side to make sure that as those vehicles get sold, that we get consumers on trials. We've got field teams ensuring that those radios are in fact on.

So when the consumer or the car buyer gets into the car, they can easily listen to SiriusXM. And we have very robust marketing programs to convert them through. So I think -- look, it depends on where we end up on the new car side next year, but I think we could see a pretty strong year on the used car side.

David Joyce -- Barclays -- Analyst

OK. Thank you.

Operator

We will take our next and final question from James Ratcliffe from Evercore ISI.

James Ratcliffe -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. Two, if I could. First of all, just conceptually, how do consumers think about their subscription cost in context of their car payment? And with higher prices and the like, if car payments are going up, is that conceptually sort of one bucket of cost that could risk crowding out of the satellite radio subscription for one? And just secondly, on the -- just on the auto production and chip shortage side, are there situations where the satellite radio or the portion that you're contributing is the bottleneck? Or are you still good on that front? Thanks.

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

Just on the subscription price relative to the car payment, we haven't really seen any tie between those two things. If anything, I think consumers are probably looking at their overall subscriptions and what they're paying for different types of services. But I don't believe it's tied to the car payment necessarily. And of course, again, we've had a really strong history of managing rate increases, and I believe we will continue to see that given the robust nature of our subscription packages and the real loyalty of our subscriber base.

And that goes to, clearly, the breadth of content that we have, exclusive, nonexclusive, it's really powerful and unmatched bundle that we've been able to offer subscribers. And then the second part of your question was --

James Ratcliffe -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Just in terms of production chip shortages, are situations where the satellite radio is just a bottleneck?

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So we really haven't had any material issues. We are working really closely, as you might expect, across the supply chain with our chip manufacturers, with the tier ones and the OEMs. And the teams internally on the engineering side and the OEM partnership side are doing an amazing job making sure that we can fulfill the demand through the supply chain and it just -- it takes a lot of coordination, but the team has done, again, a terrific job managing that.

And I haven't seen any issues that concern me kind of going into the rest of this year and going into next year at this point. And it's just -- I mean, the automakers are obviously managing a lot of different parts supplies, and we're just one piece of the puzzle, but we haven't created or had any challenges there that would concern me.

James Ratcliffe -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, James. Thank you, everyone, for participating in today's call. And we'll speak to you in the coming weeks. Take care.

Duration: 43 minutes

Call participants:

Hooper Stevens -- Senior Director, Investor Relations and Finance

Jennifer Witz -- Chief Executive Officer

Sean Sullivan -- Chief Financial Officer

Steven Cahall -- Wells Fargo Securities -- Analyst

Unknown speaker

Jessica Reif Ehrlich -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Scott Greenstein -- President and Chief Content Officer

Jason Bazinet -- Citi -- Analyst

David Joyce -- Barclays -- Analyst

James Ratcliffe -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

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