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.

Please feel free to post your opinion about this topic. This is a family-friendly site, so profanity and hateful speech will result in a comment being deleted. Just click the comments button below.

Thanks again and happy posting.

8 comments:

Richard in N.C. said...

I have heard John Malone referred to as a lot of things, but never before as a knight.....in shining armor - but he does have an amazing track record.

David Evertsen said...

I really enjoy Sirius and the NASCAR Portion of it. However too many of the hosts that are PRN or MRN annoucers always error on NASCAR's Side. Chocalate Myers is great for the stories but stops short of telling a really good story to protect his friends. Sound familiar? Thats right they suffer from the same fate as the TV guys. Point of order is after the INDY race last year many of the announcers said that Goodyear did a great job at doing what they do. We all know they have been hamstrung by NASCAR all year and the tires they provided for the past two years where a joke. Sirius kept saying look over here don't look directly at Goodyear they have done some much for us in the past. They are great. Sports is all about what have you done for me lately and Goodyear messed up and very view would call it that way...

JD Great to have you back!! You are a very important part of the NASCAR landscape. I think there are several other sites that have jumped the shark and could move along but you are vital!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard,

I used to work for Liberty Media during the Prime Network days in Houston. I am glad the irony of the headline was not lost.

JD

Tom said...

As a long time SIRIUS listener, I have been distressed to see the loss of a few hosts in favor of MRN employees. Keep in mind that MRN IS NASCAR. These hosts will tell you that no one tells them what to say, which is true, because they know which side their bread is buttered! I have even heard David Poole say "I hope I don't get in trouble" when taking a position that is counter to NASCAR'S "best interests". Just this morning I have been listening to questionable defenses of the race this weekend (start times, race conflicting with Academy awards, quality of 2 races there etc.) While I am always interested in hearing two sides of an argument (I think they made the right call at Daytona), I am very leery when I know the person is speaking strictly from a party line position. I have already ceased listening to the rest of the daily line up, but continue to listen (for a time) to the morning show. I enjoy SIRIUS a lot, but the NASCAR channel has become less interesting to me as NASCAR employees have taken a more visible role as "opinion" mouth pieces!

darbar said...

Nascar on Sirius changed for the worse when John Kernan left the station. But now, Channel 128 sounds like nothing more than a shill for Brian France. Nothing controversial or against the company line is ever said by any of the announcers. Why are these guys so afraid to speak the truth or give their own opinions? I cannot believe these guys feel that Nascar is in good shape, but if you listen to them you'd hear a lot of sunshine and roses.

And PLEASE, will someone tell Chocolate Myers that his constant using of the word "dude" by someone his age is silly? That word should only be used by those under the age of 20.

Photojosh said...

"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."

I was under the impression that there was going to be hotpass this year, just without the individual announcers. Am I mistaken?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Josh,

You can Google around the web, especially under the blog heading and find folks who are talking about what DirecTV is offering this season.

I do not have a home dish, but it basically sounds like four in-car camera feeds with a main channel.

If anyone has DirecTV, I am going to post a column after the Cali race to ask about the Hot Pass offering for this season.

JD

Anonymous said...

The NASCAR Sirius radio program is just a joke. Scripted by NASCAR, supported by NA$CAR! And only Pro-NA$CAR statements are allowed!

Ever heard those guys defend NA$CAR decisions? WOW!

Ever heard those guys defend GOODYEAR? WOW!

Every once in a while I would like to hear the truth you know!