Radio Ga Ga: The Power of Sirius XM Radio

© Getty Images (3)

Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer at Sirius XM Radio, talks about the ascendence of the satellite-radio network.

If you drive a recent luxury car, chances are, you listen to SiriusXM. The satellite-radio network comes preprogrammed in every top-tier vehicle from Ferrari to BMW, allowing it to reach an elusive, affluent audience who will gladly pay a premium for top-quality programming—or at least to not have to sit through public-radio pledge drives.

“I’d venture to say we have the richest audience under one roof, anywhere,” says Scott Greenstein, the president and chief content officer of Sirius XM Radio. In the decade since the former Miramax executive took the job, he has seen the subscriber base for his 175-channel operation rise from 400,000 to more than 27 million. Revenue, meanwhile, has passed $4 billion.

While Greenstein readily acknowledges his debt to SiriusXM’s signature DJ Howard Stern (“everybody is second to him”), he is always on the lookout 
for new voices. Greenstein’s dream addition to his roster today? Designer Tom Ford. “He touches fashion and pop culture the way Andy Warhol used to, but in a quieter way,” says Greenstein. The suggestion is not random—it’s indicative of his desire to cater to his high-end audience.

Perhaps most important, SiriusXM has been instrumental in breaking new talents, which has become a struggle for conventional stations in the age of Spotify and social media. Last summer, a little-known blue-eyed soul singer named Sam Smith recorded an acoustic version of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” for a live session on the SiriusXM Hits1 channel. When an accompanying video was uploaded to SiriusXM partner YouTube, it logged millions of views in just a few days, providing Smith with some of his earliest Stateside momentum. This year, Smith took home four Grammys. Maybe he should dedicate one to Greenstein.