Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Predicting Satellite Radio Adoption Via Listening Motives, Activity, and Format Preference

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Predicting Satellite Radio Adoption Via Listening Motives, Activity, and Format Preference

Article excerpt

As the 21st century begins, the radio industry remains largely unchanged in its content offerings. Radio's economic structure has been greatly transformed, however, by the liberation of license ownership restrictions stemming from 1996 Telecommunications Act. Large-scale ownership consolidation has allowed companies such as Clear Channel Communications to own over 10% of all commercial radio licenses. This has resulted in fewer choices of local programs and increased homogenization in programming. Audience dissatisfaction with the current state of radio programming has manifested itself in the declining stock values for radio companies in recent quarters (Flint & McBride, 2004).

The introduction of satellite-radio broadcasting offers an alternative receiver technology and delivery channel for drawing audiences and revenues. As a subscription medium, satellite radio diffusion remains stagnant. Nonetheless, with the recent signing of Howard Stern by the Sirius satellite radio network, satellite radio may be poised for growth (Flint & McBride, 2004). According to one industry estimate, the two proprietors of satellite radio services--XM and Sirius--reached over 3.3 million and nearly 1 million subscribers by the end of 2004, respectively (SkyWaves Research Associates, 2004). In 2005, subscriber numbers rose quickly to reach 4.4 million and 1.5 million for XM and Sirius, respectively, and these figures were expected to approach 5.5 million and 2.7 million by the year's end (Heine, 2005).

To compete effectively against their terrestrial and online counterparts, the satellite radio industry needs to understand their audiences' listening needs and wants. As little is known about the audiences for these emerging services, this study explores the potential cognitive, behavioral, and demographic factors associated with satellite radio adoption. In particular, it examines listener affinity, motives, and activity as well as format preferences to help assess listener interest in adopting satellite radio.

Literature Review

Because an examination of the literature on satellite radio research uncovered a dearth of sources, it is useful to review the literature addressing radio research in general. Early studies conducted by Cantril (1940) as well as by Cantril and Allport (1935) took a "direct effects" approach before and after Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast. Since that time, the limited literature base has by and large investigated radio use via the uses and gratifications perspective. Similarly, because there is a scarcity of literature on listener "interaction" with the listening process, a review of the "audience activity construct" in the television-viewing literature will be used to discuss how audiences "behave" during radio listening.

Listening Motives

The uses and gratifications paradigm conceptualizes the audience member as a goal-oriented individual who is motivated by a set of cognitive and affective needs when consuming media (e.g., Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974). In essence, the audience sets gratification expectations for their media use experience; it is the gratifications that they receive from media use that entice them to become repeat patrons of the same media offerings.

Herzog's (1940, 1954) research found that listening to soap operas on radio was perceived as an escape from mundane daily household duties as well as an information source for helping to solve the daily problems in life for many women. Twenty years later, Mendelsohn (1964) theorized about radio-listening behavior and identified "utilitarian/news," "active mood accompaniment," "psychological release," and "friendly companionship" as the functions of radio listening. A decade later, when AM radio found new popularity with its talk program format, interest in radio-listening research surged again.

Turow (1974) interviewed callers to four different talk shows aired during different time periods and concluded that talk radio was a form of "interpersonal communication," in which the audience drew gratifications from interacting with the talk show host live. …

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