Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) subscribers will be in for some heavy duty changes when they crank up their satellite radio receivers tomorrow. Sirius XM is moving several channels around and adding some new options.
Some of the incoming channels include Velvet (contemporary pop vocalists), SiriusXM Fly (retro hip-hop and R&B), Limited Engagement (a new hub for the steady flow of limited-run stations), and a new channel devoted to comedy greats. Many existing stations will also relocate to new channel numbers.
But Sirius XM is also making room for some of these new offerings by eliminating some of the current channels. Escape -- the easy listening music channel -- joins C-SPAN, SiriusXM Indie, and several Latino channels on the way out of the original receiver-based offering.
There will be some grumbling. We tend to know only what we will have to go without instead of the enjoyment we will receive from the new ear candy. But Sirius XM has survived and even thrived through similar channel shakeups in the past. It will do so again.
Sirius XM closed out its second quarter with a record 28.4 million subscribers. The appeal of satellite radio isn't waning. Sirius XM had a record 8.2 million drivers on free trials, and if we go by the platform's historical performance, more than 3.3 million of those listeners will stick around as paying subscribers. With monthly churn near its historical low and Sirius XM now targeting a whopping $1.3 billion in free cash flow, it seems like a safe time to risk near-term alienation of a few fans of fringe channels for the sake of beefing up its overall lineup of content.
This doesn't mean that everybody loves Sirius XM. There are still plenty of naysayers out there. Short interest inched up to nearly 153.7 million by the end of July. Outside of a brief spike up to 155.7 million shares sold short in mid-May, this is the highest that we've seen short interest since late last year.
Investors shouldn't be afraid of the heavy short interest. Sirius XM has been able to climb this wall of worry with aplomb, becoming one of the market's biggest large-cap winners since bottoming out at $0.05 a share six years ago. It has survived a pair of rate hikes and the arrival of the connected car. It may have to survive the departure of Howard Stern next year if the magnetic personality decides not to renew his deal with the media giant. It can survive the shuffling of some of its channels. It's what Sirius XM does.