Sunday, February 22, 2009
Sirius Finds A Knight In Shining Armor
TDP spoke in early 2009 about the impending financial crisis of the Sirius Satellite Radio group. Click here for that column. Unable to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars currently owed, it appeared that Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin was preparing to file for bankruptcy.
This week, one of the most savvy communications executives in the nation rode to the defense of Sirius and appears to have saved the day. John Malone is the Chairman of Liberty Media. Click here for the story as reported by The Washington Post.
NASCAR fans may remember it was Malone's Liberty Media that took over DirecTV from Fox's David Hill and this season cancelled the NASCAR Hot Pass Service. Malone is a shrewd investor who prefers to own, rather than operate, the companies in which he invests. Investing in Sirius, however, was a strategic move.
The other suitor for Sirius was the company that owns DISH Network. Echostar was interested in sliding in at the last minute and picking-up what was left of Sirius just before bankruptcy. It seems Malone has beaten them to the punch.
Click here for an update from TheStreet.com that talks generally about the agreement and the ramifications down the road from both a management and financial perspective.
The NASCAR contract with Sirius is quoted at $107.5 million over five years. To many fans, it is a lot more valuable than that. Away from the racetrack, NASCAR's presence on national TV is lackluster. During the months of the off-season, it is non-existent.
As the current financial turmoil began to attack the sport, it was good old Sirius Channel 128's daily NASCAR content that kept fans in touch with what was going-on inside the teams and shops. ESPN and SPEED more than dropped the ball, they both went on vacation.
ESPNEWS and SportsCenter shunned the sport during the height of the stick-and-ball season, while SPEED hid behind endless reality show re-runs and made a lot of excuses. Radio and the Internet ruled the day.
A huge key issue for Sirius is to once again try to negotiate the rights to put NASCAR audio content online. Since Sirius is available to any laptop or PC user with a simple download, getting the Turner Interactive Group to allow Sirius Channel 128 to be available to NASCAR fans directly through the Internet would be a positive for all involved.
Turner operates NASCAR.com and controls the online rights to all NASCAR content for many years to come. Turner's agenda, however, is to focus on the NASCAR.com website and try to extend the reach of that content. Recently redesigned, the site has more of a "blog feel" and is easy to navigate.
Getting Turner to allow Sirius Channel 128 to be accessed online, even just on a Monday through Friday basis, would be a tremendous step for a sport clearly in crisis. While the PR spin on the upcoming California weekend is a good car count and great racing, veteran fans know this season is going to be a challenge like no other in recent memory.
The Sirius saga continues to be an important one for NASCAR fans who want live information, interviews and the opportunity to interact with personalities in the sport. Mr. Malone may have arrived just in the nick of time.
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Thanks again and happy posting.