Sirius XM earnings follow-up: Content shifts at Pandora and a “disciplined” approach to podcasts

Sirius XM hosted a conference call this week to share its financial results from the third quarter of 2019. CEO Jim Meyer and other executives offered insights on the company’s current directions. “We must continue reinforcing our value proposition and finding additional out-of-car pathways to engage existing subscribers and drive new sources of growth,” Meyer said. Those additional paths include shifts at Pandora and investments into podcasting.

Shifting priorities at Pandora

“We have a lot of heavy lifting ahead of us but let’s not forget that this was our highest-ever quarterly ad revenue figure and we had solid off-platform growth as well,” Meyer said of the results.

He noted that ad-supported listening hours were still declining, but at a slower rate than in the previous two quarters of this year. The drops were 11.2% in the first quarter and 9.6% in the second quarter, followed by a decrease of 7.5% in the third quarter.

“The biggest and most exciting changes to come at Pandora are really around content,” he said. Meyer said that Pandora would be shifting to feature more curated branded stations and playlists. The company will take some of the strategies that have been successful with Sirius XM, such as leveraging celebrity talents and brands to drive demand and relevance. Meyer emphasized that Pandora and Sirius XM will continue to have unique identities even as they continue to cross-pollinate content across the platforms.

A disciplined attitude toward podcast deals

When asked about podcasting, Meyer said that the company is taking a “disciplined” approach to the field. The business is considering working with third party partners to build the technical infrastructure and expects to have more insights on that strategy in the first half of 2020.

“To us the podcasting game we believe is all about the value of the quality of the content and we don’t believe that many of the big brands have really weighed in yet the big entertainment brands which is why we think the Marvel announcement is really so extraordinary of where we’re going here,” Meyer said, referencing Sirius XM’s recent announcement for co-creating shows with the entertainment giant.

Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer, also noted the value proposition of Pandora’s algorithms for making podcast recommendations. “Once Pandora’s algorithm is able to align your music pace with your podcast and you can surface podcasts the way they surface music it’s an entire different game because as the music industry learns soon enough the issue is whether you can curate well and surface well when there’s a tremendous amount out there.”

Anna Washenko