Don't bury Sirius XM Radio
Fellow Fool Travis Hoium was shoveling dirt on the satellite-radio giant yesterday, eulogizing the passing of premium radio in a world of app-streaming smartphones, music-discovery sites, and "Sirius XM is a dinosaur" bumper stickers.
He forgets -- as many bears painfully have over the past year and change -- that Pandora, Apple's
Rivals vying for eardrum attention are evolving. They're improving. However, as you read this, Sirius XM is probably hitting an all-time high in subscribers.
What does that tell you? If you won't listen to metrics, then at least listen to reason.
Reports of Sirius XM's death are greatly exaggerated
Are folks leaving Comcast for dead, especially as the number of total cable and satellite television subscribers may have peaked earlier this year? No. Comcast is a $50 billion company, and its realm will grow once it completes the purchase of General Electric's
Sirius XM doesn't need the flashy acquisition -- though with billions in tax loss carryforwards, it's not as if that would be a bad idea if the profitable fit is right.
The satrad giant's subscriber base is growing, its churn rate is falling, and conversions after free trials are improving. Where in all of that do you see a company that is being stung by Pandora, or the 5.8 million people that have downloaded Clear Channel's iHeart Radio app?
There have only been two quarters in the history of satellite radio where Sirius and XM have combined to close out the period with fewer subscribers than they had three months earlier. Sirius XM's accounts went from 19 million to 18.4 million during the first half of 2009. The culprit wasn't smartphone streaming. Sirius XM was victimized by the darkest recessionary stretch, echoed in the auto industry by the near collapse of General Motors.
In other words, carmakers' faltering is a bigger threat to Sirius XM's growth than web-based streaming.
Let's up the ante
If you're still not convinced, why do you think Sirius XM raised its year-end subscriber target -- from 19.9 million to 20.1 million -- last Friday? Was there a slowdown in the smartphone migration? Was Pandora accused of spreading malware?
Come on, bears. You can do better than that.
There's a legitimate case to be argued when it comes to Sirius XM's valuation. Its market cap has ballooned to $8 billion, or a dizzying $11 billion in enterprise value. Given its slow (yet accelerating) growth and its meager (yet improving) margins, $11 billion isn't cheap despite Sirius XM being the only game in town.
Catalysts will have to justify the market premium. Whether it comes in the form of next year's Sirius XM 2.0 platform upgrade, fee/cost adjustments, or new revenue streams, Sirius XM will have to earn its upticks. Healthy double-digit sales growth in September from Ford, GM, and Toyota
Sirius XM's future is in its own hands, in every sense of the word.
Can Pandora and streaming options really hurt Sirius XM or is it immune? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a subscriber to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.