The 2005 Media Summit New York started off with a bang yesterday morning as keynote speaker, Mel Karmazin, CEO Sirius Satellite Radio was interviewed by BusinessWeek Media Editor, Tom Lowry. Always entertaining, Mel started off by throwing down the gauntlet to terrestrial radio – calling it a mature business with growth limited to GDP increases. He delighted in telling the audience that while Sirius Satellite Radio was investing in new, exciting content, the terrestrial radio business was cutting costs to maintain marginal profits.
After much talk about stock prices and after dispelling a few rumors about the location of Howard Stern’s new studio, Mel went on to talk about his exclusive hardware deals with Ford and Chrylser, his commitment to small screen (mostly rear seat – for kids) video and cited limited bandwidth and not enough product differentiation as the reasons why Sirius will not attempt to compete with DirecTV and Echostar for the set-top market .
The subject eventually turned to the current administrations’ views on censorship and Mel said that, “as a citizen … I’m troubled by it.” Mr. Karmazin spoke quite candidly about the opportunities for Sirius to deliver unique, uncensored, content to a private “for pay” audience that was out of the reach of the government agencies that regulate over-the-air broadcasters. He went on to say that, “… although we will not be a safe haven for FCC violators, we will push to the edge.”
Somewhere in the middle of the interview, Mel made it clear that any big media company would be smart to purchase Sirius – the sooner, the better. And, when asked about what he learned at Viacom, he responded, “I learned that I’m not a very good number 2 guy!”