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SiriusXM CEO Calls Audio Ad Sales Market “Tough”

Amid a weaker advertising market, SiriusXM CEO Jennifer Witz pointed to positive signs that include an auto sales recovery and a podcast market adapting to anxiety among brand marketers to forecast an ad sales recovery into the close of 2023.

But U.S. ad sales have softened for the satellite radio giant this year as more audio platforms compete for fewer ad dollars amid anxiety for consumers and brand marketers. “It’s choppy. It’s definitely choppy out there. I watch it every week. And it’s a tough environment,” Witz told the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference during a session that was webcast Monday.

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Besides the flagship subscription entertainment service SiriusXM, Witz runs the ad-supported Pandora streaming platform and is looking to lead the ad-driven podcast business by bringing top marketing brands to that growing audio content market.

“Some brands are sitting on the sidelines until they see whether the strength of the consumer is really there,” Witz reported while pointing to increased ad sales demand for the travel and restaurants sectors. But other brands and ad categories face headwinds, including direct response and direct-to-consumer advertising platforms as promotional tools.

To make podcasts more appealing to brand marketers, SiriusXM is enabling digital advertisers to reach specific shows or an entire audience demographic within its podcast network. Audio advertising driven by new digital formats has also become a growing focus at SiriusXM as it shifts to a streaming model on top of its satellite radio broadcasts, while also rolling out its exclusive 360L technology to combine satellite and streaming features.

Witz said car drivers are increasingly looking to the convenience of audio streaming services to curate their out-of-home listening, rather than have subscribers just turn the ignition and flip the dashboard radio dial to see what strikes their fancy. Here products like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto represent new competition for SiriusXM.

“They’ve (streaming platforms) set a different expectation. There should be a guided experience to find the content you love,” she added of 360L technology offering curated audio recommendations based on listening history and selected favorites for drivers available right after the engine is turned on and a journey is about to get underway.

New streaming features aim to have drivers use SiriusXM outside the car. “As we build out this platform, we’ll be able to connect people to the out-of-car listening experience much more seamlessly,” Witz predicted.

That said, the SiriusXM chief insisted her company had a loyal subscriber base that has long used rival audio listening products in cars dating back to the iPod and early iPhones. “We would expect our customers to do that. We view ourselves as a complementary, but very differentiated service. So in the face of growth in algorithms and automation and AI, we’re pretty unique,” Witz told the investors conference.

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