SiriusXM Satellite Radio launched its answer to Pandora on Monday. Called MySXM, the feature creates an interactive Internet radio service by allowing users to personalize existing SiriusXM stations. The feature is available to all subscribers of SiriusXM.
MySXM uses over 50 existing SiriusXM channels as a starting point. More channels will be added over time. Listeners use slider bars to create variations in channels’ existing playlists to tweak characteristics. For example, the customization features for “The Spectrum” allow the listener to choose different levels of depth (less familiar to more familiar artists), era (older to more recent songs) and popularity (club artists to arena artists).
Omnifone and the Echo Nest help power the new MySXM feature. The On Demand web service and mobile apps were created by QuickPlay Media.
MySXM puts SiriusXM is more direct competition with Pandora and other Internet radio services. SiriusXM already offers SiriusXM On Demand, an online service with over 300 shows and over 3,000 hours of content. While the new MySXM feature adds the kind of interactivity that is popular with radio listeners, MySXM is unlike Pandora in that usage requires a small amount of time and effort to fine tune stations. In that way MySXM is more like Internet radio service Slacker, which allows a high degree of fine tuning, than the relatively hands-off experience of Pandora.
The launch of MySXM does not mean SiriusXM thinks of itself as an Internet radio service. The company has always seen satellite radio as its core mission and the Internet as a value-added service. Subscriptions to the satellite service are still very much central to the company’s business model. Last year former CEO Mel Karmazin called the Internet radio business model “a race to the bottom.” He said the company adds features such as MyXSM because customers want them, “not because we think it’s good business sense.”
SiriusXM does not break out the number of listeners to its online service from its total subscribers. The company ended 2012 with 23.9 million subscribers, giving it one of the largest audiences in radio. Pandora currently has about 70 million monthly active listeners and recently surpassed 200 million registered users.