Sirius XM's Radio of the Future Is a Game-Changer

The fight for eardrums is intensifying in the premium market. Sirius XM Holdings (NASDAQ: SIRI) is teaming up with Fiat Chrysler (NYSE: FCAU) to roll out the next-gen SiriusXM with 360L platform on the 2019 Ram 1500 pickup truck.

The new platform -- "360L" stands for "360-degree listening" -- will give SiriusXM All Access subscribers enhanced entertainment options on the Fiat Chrysler's all-new half-ton pickup through Ram's Uconnect 4C NAV. The embedded connectivity will mean access to more than 200 channels, including streams that were previously only available online.

SiriusXM with 360L will also provide access to thousands of hours of on-demand content, improved play-by-play sports coverage, and the ability to use Uconnect's touchscreen to check out streaming recommendations that are custom-tailored to the user. There are also new features that improve the user interface and experience. In short, SiriusXM with 360L means a whole world of audio content beyond just what's beaming in real time.

Shifting into a new gear

Sirius XM is in a good place these days. It closed out 2017 with a record 32.7 million subscribers. Growth is slowing, but subscriber counts, average revenue per user, and free cash flow are all trending higher.

Critics figuring that Sirius XM would be transitory technology -- bridging the gap between terrestrial radio and mobile streaming, before fading away -- couldn't have been more wrong. Satellite-radio consumption continues to grow as its fan base of well-heeled drivers relish the seamless access to premium audio entertainment to score their daily commutes.

SiriusXM with 360L could be a game-changer, but not in the obvious way of beefing up content offerings. Sure, access to thousands of hours of on-demand content and personalized programming streams will increase engagement, making Sirius XM stickier and increasing the perceived value of the service.

The real bar-raising aspect here is that connectivity with Sirius XM will make the media giant smarter and better suited to monetizing its growing subscriber base. We've seen what access to consumption data has done for the leaders in streaming video, social networking, and online search. The press release detailing 360L offers an example where someone is listening to Howard Stern's show, and the Fiat Chrysler touchscreen offers the option to check out a Stern interview with a musical celebrity; that could result in the further options of hearing the artist's music, or the Sirius XM channel specializing in that genre. The process will weave listeners deeper into the Sirius XM ecosystem, but it will also arm the satellite-radio heavy with data on what folks are clicking and what they're not clicking.

A smarter Sirius XM can not only make smarter programming decisions, but also ultimately serve up more successful ads by targeting specific users on the platform. Ad revenue remains a thin slice of the model here, but it can become a more critical component as Sirius XM gets to know its audience through two-way communication.

The needle may not be moving right now; we're talking about one new pickup-truck model. And we're in the early stages of what Sirius XM can do with the data it's collecting, and the tools to push personalized content and individual messages. Give it time. Sirius XM isn't going away anytime soon.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.