SiriusXM Executives Discuss Planned Howard Stern Video Service, Pandora

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Howard Stern

The satellite radio company, controlled by John Malone's Liberty Media, reported higher fourth-quarter earnings.

Satellite radio giant SiriusXM, home of Howard Stern, on Thursday reported higher fourth-quarter earnings as it continued to add subscribers. Top executives also provided an update on a planned Stern video service and answered questions about the company's possible interest in buying music streaming service Pandora Media.

Asked about the Stern video plans on the earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts, Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, reiterated that video offers would be rolled out this year. The company and Stern have been looking at “how can we turn this into both a creative exercise that would be interesting to our subscribers, as well as makes sense economically," he explained. "It's totally on plan right now. … We are in daily conversation on reviewing creative and different elements that go with that."

He said there would be announcements coming this year that will lead to the rollout. "It's a creative process and … we want to make sure it’s both correct, it’s exciting, and it breaks through, and that takes a little time," he emphasized. "The great thing is that Howard is super-engaged with this.” Greenstein concluded by saying, "We feel pretty optimistic where we are going to end up on this."

CEO Jim Meyer was then asked if SiriusXM was exploring additional video offers. “Our focus [in 2017] is to get Howard correct,” he said, but signaled the company could do more video beyond that. “I don’t think we are ever going to be in the stand-alone video business," he said. "We are trying to look for areas where video and that video experience very much complements what our subscribers are getting from SiriusXM, and in fact would make them more sticky and more appreciative of our service.”

Pandora has been surrounded by rumors that someone like SiriusXM could look to buy the company, which with 100 million unique listeners each month is popular, but is losing money. SiriusXM CFO David Frear recently signaled that a deal was not very likely and said "I have doubts" about Pandora's strategy.

But John Malone's Liberty Media, which controls SiriusXM, has at times signaled a deal could happen. Asked on Thursday if Liberty and SiriusXM disagree on a possible Pandora play, Meyer said: “I speak to [Liberty CEO] Greg Maffei multiple times a week. … There is zero disagreement between Greg and myself on direction going forward on the asset.” He said the CFO's comments "were right on point, and I really don't have anything to add there at all."

SiriusXM previously had said that it ended 2016 with more than 31.3 million subscribers and exceeded its full-year guidance for subscribers, revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

The company on Thursday reported earnings of $205 million, up 52 percent from $135 million in the year-ago period. Adjusted EBITDA rose 20 percent to $475 million. 

Said Meyer: "Last year was a phenomenal year for SiriusXM's business, and we expect continued success in 2017. We finished ahead of our guidance across the board." 

He added: "We will continue to challenge ourselves to provide our subscribers the very best audio content in an easy-to-use package. We have launched an exclusive 24/7 channel, Fox Sports on SiriusXM, and we've started a daily show with the wildly popular Barstool Sports. We added a new daily talk show with Craig Ferguson and launched a new daily music show, Hits 1 in Hollywood, broadcasting live from SiriusXM's Los Angeles studios. We also provided our subscribers access to one-of-a-kind events, such as Bon Jovi live in Miami. We never stand still in our quest to have the freshest, most relevant content in the audio entertainment industry, from music to sports to talk to comedy and beyond."

The company also reiterated its 2017 forecasts, including self-pay net subscriber additions of approximately 1.3 million and revenue of approximately $5.3 billion.

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