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SiriusXM CEO Says Job Cuts ‘Right Thing’ for Company’s Future

Among the impacted employees: Steve Leeds, a vp who developed the satellite radio company's artist branded stations like E Street Radio.

SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz said on Tuesday that the company’s recent job cuts were difficult but “the right thing to do” as the business grapples with lower ad sales, a still-delayed recovery in automotive subscription business and major investments in its technology.

SiriusXM announced this week it was letting go of 475 employees, or roughly 8% of its workforce, which totaled 5,869 employees as of Dec. 31, 2022.

“It’s really tough to see the number of talented employees leaving the business,” Witz said Tuesday at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley. “It was the right thing to do for the business. We absolutely want to make sure we’re disciplined. We will operate much more efficiently going forward and that’s going to give us even more flexibility to invest where we need to to build out this platform and generate future growth.”


Among the employees impacted were Steve Leeds, vp of talent and industry and a 17-year veteran of the company who developed SiriusXM’s artist branded stations like E Street Radio and recruited talent like Lou Reed and Marshall Chess; and Roger Coletti, senior director and executive producer talk programming who, during his eight years at SiriusXM, helped create Volume, SiriusXM’s talk radio channel dedicated to music topics.

SiriusXM is the latest in a long list of companies in technology, consumer products and other industries to announce it was cutting its workforce and operating leaner due to the uncertain economic climate. Layoff.fyi, a website tracking job cuts in the technology sector, estimates more than 126,000 employees have been let go from tech companies so far in 2023, compared to 161,000 employees let go in all of 2022.

Witz, a former Viacom executive who has been with SiriusXM since 2002, said the company has been reviewing areas to reduce costs since the middle of last year. It made cuts to new hiring, content development, discretionary marketing and the company’s real estate footprint, but ultimately prepared to reduce staff as ad sales slowed in December.

“Advertising is definitely a headwind,” Witz said. “That’s 20% of our revenue… And subscriber volume — we expect this to be modestly negative. The auto sales, we haven’t seen a recovery materialize. The first quarter is going to be tough.”

Witz said that operating with a leaner workforce will enable the company to capitalize on growth opportunities she sees in automotive subscriptions at the high end, where customers pay as much as $35 per month.

SiriusXM reaches roughly 150 million listeners across its divisions, including 34.3 million Sirius XM subscribers, 6.2 million Pandora subscribers and podcasts, according to the company’s most recent annual report.

SiriusXM’s core product — satellite subscription radio programs — have historically been consumed in cars, with SiriusXM radios available in about 152 million vehicles, as of Dec. 31, 2022, according to filings.

As the company looks to smart speakers and other connected devices to expand its reach to consumers, it is also expanding it content offering and prioritizing podcasting.

“We do see a bright spot in podcasting,” Witz said.