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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Future of Theme Time Radio Hour and A Modest Proposal

According to yesterday's New York Times, Sirius XM Radio is preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. No surprise to those who follow the Theme Time Radio Hour News & Views column or our DylanTweets.

What that means for the remaining episodes of Season 3 or a Season 4 of TTRH is unclear, and will probably remain unclear for some time. From what I've read, it's a probable "good news/bad news" scenario.

The Good News is that it's unlikely that SIRIUS XM would just flip the switch to "off" if they file for bankruptcy. As the Times reports, they're preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which, in theory, could allow the company to reorganize and continue in some form. However, the "in theory" part is an important caveat. See "Fly in the Ointment" below.

The Bad News part is that its likely that the bankruptcy would cause SIRIUS XM to cancel or attempt to renegotiate its contracts with "high-priced talent" (to quote the Times) such as the odious Mr. Stern, Martha Stewart, and, although he isn't named, Mr. D.

If so, that might affect the remaining shows of Season 3 (I'm guessing that there are still between 8 and 11 episodes to go, counting today's "Happy" show), and would certainly impact any Season 4. I would assume that the continuation of Season 3 will depend on the shows that have already been delivered to XM, and the contracted payment schedule.

There's one more fly in the ointment, which you'll see if you review the various news reports. Echostar, the TV satellite company, has been buying up SIRIUS XM debt. The exact reasons why they're doing it are unknown. Echostar may see satellite radio as a complement to their other offerings. The company may want SIRIUS XM's most desirable assets, which are the satellites and related equipment. In any case, a threat of bankruptcy could trigger Echostar to force an immediate takeover of SIRIUS XM or, if the bankruptcy goes through, Echostar could petition the courts to allow it to take over the company. What that would mean is again unclear, but would probably be the end of SIRIUS XM as it exists today.

The Future?

I've been thinking about this for the past month or so, after it became pretty obvious that the End Days were upon SIRIUS XM Radio, and the future for TTRH continuing on satellite is cloudy.

This is just blue-skyin' of course. While I know enough to know that it's technically feasible, I'm not sure the whole royalty system - especially with all the ongoing controversy around royalty payments for music played on internet radio - would make it economically worthwhile or even possible.

Here's my idea. Gray Water Park Productions/Big Red Tree create a subscription-based TTRH site, and move the show over to the Web if SIRIUS XM goes down and the contract is voided.

Subscribers worldwide get to hear a streaming new TTRH 24 x 7 each Wednesday - similar to the old XMX - plus have 24 x 7 streaming access to archives of the older shows.

The site charges a subscription fee - somewhere around $2.99 to 7.99 per month - for access to the site. Maybe they take advertising too, similar to the page that XM/Cadillac put up (and which is still there, btw).

With your subscription you get the shows, plus member bennies... forums, maybe stories behind the shows, like Dreamtime (I'm not angling or anything, Mr. D :lol: ), maybe a virtual walkthough thru Studio B. Maybe Mr. D. really reading your emails on the show. Stuff like that. The imagination runs wild... An iPhone app that streams TTRH!! ...streaming video of Our Host Live from Studio B!!!! :roll:

Now, one of the bennies is that people worldwide get easy access to the show, and all the shows, as opposed to now, where you have to jump through hoops to listen to the show at its scheduled broadcast times or wait for the torrents/mp3s to show up.

The whole torrent/mp3/streaming over at dylanradio thing is a conundrum, of course. I'll note that I'm internet friends with most of the people who do that work. Whether their continuing efforts would have a significant financial impact on a streaming TTRH radio show, I dunno. And, if so, if they were politely asked to stop so the show could go on, would they? And you know that whoever stopped, boots would continue to show up, 'cause that's the nature of these digital days.

Would most people subscribe to a TTRH stream or would they want to download the shows to CD/mp3 player? Would they want both? Me, that's what I would want. I've been a XM internet subscriber since 2006, but I also "illegally download" the shows, because I want a permanent record.

Again, I'll say I dunno, and I'm not interested in the debate about the legalities/ethics. I just want my TTRH to go on... at least as long as Our Host wants to do it.

Bottom line is that big changes are coming to SIRIUS XM, and my advice is to enjoy the TTRH we have while we still have it. I think it won't be long till we're telling newbies, "Boy you should have been around when Mr. D. was broadcasting every Wednesday. Sure you can still download the shows, but it's not the same."

1 comment:

Bill said...

Stern gets stupid money, and it seems pretty generally conceded that he turned out to be a poor investment. What does XM pay Bobby? (Or Petty, for that matter?)It would have to be a better bargain.