Survey Shows Satellite Radio Is Building Momentum

By | September 8, 2003 | Feature

Satellite radio, which is advancing beyond the “early adopter” stage, is expected to achieve robust growth for the rest of 2003 and beyond, according to a survey by ChangeWave Research, a market research arm of Potomac, Md.-based Phillips International.

Among those who responded to the survey, 3 percent said they already subscribed to satellite radio and 9 percent said they planned to purchase the service later this year. The survey, sent to the 4,000 members of the ChangeWave Alliance who tend to be early adopters of new technology, also found that late-starting Sirius Satellite Radio [Nasdaq: SIRI] is showing signs of gaining on rival XM Satellite Radio [Nasdaq: XMSR], the first to launch satellite radio service in the United States.

Among the respondents that either owned a satellite radio unit or planned to buy one later this year, ChangeWave members preferred XM, 49 percent, to Sirius, 36 percent; the rest were undecided. The results show that Sirius is reducing the edge XM has enjoyed since late 2001 when it was the only service available for U.S. consumers to buy.

Other Technologies

ChangeWave queried respondents about other technologies. Around 19 percent said they owned digital video recorders. The same percentage indicated they planned to buy one by year-end. More than twice as many people participating in the survey who owned a digital video recorder used it as part of a computer system, compared to those who used it with an entertainment system.

Pricing is important in boosting sales of digital video recorders even among early adopters, the survey found. The findings showed that only 48 percent of those who planned to buy a unit by year-end would do so if the price were $299 or less, compared with 28 percent who would pay up to $499. An additional 2 percent of the respondents would pay as much as $699; another 2 percent that would pay up to $999, while the remaining 19 percent of those who provided feedback were unsure how much that would pay. Digital video recorders, unveiled six years ago, offer crisper pictures and are appealing because they offer clearer sounds and superior longevity, compared to VHS videocassettes, the survey found.

Personal video recorders were owned by 18 percent of the early adopters who responded, while 6 percent of those who had yet to purchase a unit planned to do so by the end of the year. Among those interested in buying a personal video recorder by year-end, two-thirds wanted to obtain a TiVo or TiVo-like recording system. The personal video recorders, essentially a tape-less videocassette recorder with more features, allow TV programs to be saved on a hard drive to maximize flexibility in TV viewing habits.

The survey also asked respondents about their interest in buying a mobile satellite TV unit now that both DirecTV and EchoStar Communications [Nasdaq: DISH] are offering them for SUVs, recreational vehicles and boats. If an “affordable” and portable satellite TV system was available, 50 percent of the respondents said they would be at least “somewhat” interested. The results suggest “solid” prospects for such a service, according to ChangeWave officials.

As far as satellite Internet services, 28 percent of the respondents said they would find the availability of a mobile 24-hour a day, high-speed satellite Internet service that worked across North America a “very significant” development and would change how they use the Internet and communicate with others. Among the remaining respondents, 50 percent said such a service would be nice to have but would not alter the way they use the Internet. Roughly two-in-five respondents would pay $50 a month or more for a mobile satellite Internet service.

–Paul Dykewicz

(Paul Carton, ChangeWave Alliance, 301/340-7788)

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