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SiriusXM reboots satellite radio with new app, features — and price

An unreleased version of the new SiriusXM app on a Cadillac Lyric EV.

SiriusXM is simultaneously a legacy brand and one that’s looking toward the future of satellite radio in a streaming world. And today at a celebrity-laden event in New York City — kicked off by none other than Howard Stern — SiriusXM took a more-than 90-minute look at its history, its present, and where it’s going in 2024 and beyond.

Satellite radio was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, allowing subscribers — yes, subscription radio — to listen to music, sports, and talk radio, anywhere in the country. It (brilliantly) worked deals with automakers to work its way into new cars with free trials. And it did so in the space between the advent of the modern smartphone and the introduction of proper streaming media services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music. Today, SiriusXM boasts somewhere in the neighborhood of nearly 34 million subscribers.

SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz at an event in New York City.
SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz at an event in New York City. Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

The reboot is more than just a new look, new channels, and a new updated app. It’s the new future of everything SiriusXM touches. And at the center of it all will be the people who help power the channels and pick the music you listen to.

“We believe that today, our high-quality, premium curated radio is more relevant than ever,” SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz said. “So what sets us apart from other audio services? It’s our human touch. It’s the people who curate our channels. It’s the artists, the personalities. the content creators who drive a deep connection with their fans.” Witz then welcomed Stern to the stage, where we spoke about his transition from terrestrial radio to SiriusXM, and all the freedom it brought him.

And while Witz said there’s plenty more news to be made in 2024, she closed with a bit of a bang — SiriusXM will actually lower its streaming-only subscription to $10 a month. (Details are scarce, but SiriusXM has had three tiers of streaming-only plans, ranging from $5 to $11 a month.)

The event also saw live appearances from Conan O’Brien, Kevin Hart, Shaggy, Maren Morris, Ashley Flowers, and Andy Cohen, a performance from Kelly Clarkson (covering Miley Cyrus’ Flowers), plus recorded bits from John Mayer and James Corden. That’s one heck of a lineup; and a reminder of the clout SiriusXM brings.

Competing against the likes of the major streaming services means that SiriusXM needs to continue to expand.

A new way to listen in the car (well, some cars)

SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz at a launch event for the company.
Getty Images for SiriusXM

A demo in a Cadillac Lyriq EV showed a new interactive take on SiriusXM, all built atop the Android Automotive infotainment system. (That’s the one that’s baked into the car itself and not, like CarPlay or Android Auto, just running atop an existing OEM infotainment system.) In addition to a smart, stylish traditional app experience that displays the sort of categorical results and now-playing screens, the new in-car experience even allows for interactive polls — safely, execs said. And sports programming will be able to point listeners to live games with scores as they’re happening.

The Lyriq demo was very much an unreleased beta system and a look at what’s possible, not necessarily what the SiriusXM experience would look like in every car in the future. SiriusXM is somewhat constrained in what it can offer between manufacturers as they’re far from standardized on Android Automotive. In any event, it looked very cool and very modern. Also announced was an expanded agreement with EV maker Polestar, which will launch the 360L platform in the Polestar 3 (and some other models) in 2024.

The new “360L” experience brings the best of streaming with the backup of satellite — but only for some cars.

As for your current car … don’t hold your breath. A SiriusXM spokesperson told us that existing legacy systems “will not be impacted by any of the changes announced today.” So that’s that; and it isn’t particularly surprising. Though you will of course continue to get the new content offerings, as every time SiriusXM updates its lineup the new channels will be available on legacy head units without any software changes.

And in non-car news, select Hilton hotel properties in 2024 will allow you to control SiriusXM entertainment in its “Connected Room Experience” via the Hilton Honors app, and keep listening at home.

Audiobooks also will be coming to SiriusXM in early 2024 thanks to a partnership with the Amazon-owned Audible, and that included a vague reference to some SiriusXM content being highlighted on Audible as well. (That news comes on the heels of Spotify just announcing free audiobooks in the U.S.)

An all-new app experience

There also was a demo of the new SiriusXM app itself, which will be at the forefront of the reboot as it rolls out on Android, iOS, and Amazon starting on December 14. Again, it’s a welcome and natural improvement on what’s been available for some time. The new app will allow for better personalization and curation, a revamped playback experience for each kind of content (think different for music, talk and sports), enhanced search, better podcast listening, and an interactive onboarding akin to what you’d find in traditional streaming music apps.

And it’ll of course sync over to your listening experience in your car, at least once it’s updated. We’ll have to see what comes of the experience for Android Auto or CarPlay as well — presumably that’ll more closely follow the new look of the mobile app.

Even more content

A screenshot of Howard Stern at the SiriusXM event in New York City.
Howard Stern at the SiriusXM event in New York City. Screenshot

SiriusXM also announced the launch of three new music channels. Alt2K is what it sounds like — 2000s alternative rock. Flex2K does the same for hip-hop, and The Flow hits R&B from the 2000s and 2010s. And that’s on top of new channels from Shaggy, Clarkson, Mayer, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, and podcast company Audiochuck (of Crime Junkie Podcast fame).

And as part of the rebrand, the SiriusXM dog mascot inherited from the old Sirius brand now has a name — Stella.

“We’re thrilled to introduce the world to the new SiriusXM brand, which brings to life the best of what we have to offer and welcomes in a new generation of listeners while staying true to our roots,” Suzi Watford, SVP, Chief Growth Officer at SiriusXM, said in a press release. “Our new brand platform, Closer, showcases the unique nature of our offering, giving true fans a space to go deeper into what they love.”

Look for a lot of the new stuff on December 14, and more to come in 2024.

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