Saturday, August 24, 2019

XM (No Cycling At All)

With the purchase of my new vehicle I received a trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, a service that I had explored only briefly in rental cars. During the last couple of weeks I have gotten more familiar with it, learning, for example, that most SiriusXM offerings are available online and not in my car. It’s a staggering amount of programming, and I probably seem like an ideal candidate for a paid subscription: I have very focused entertainment tastes—the station that plays nothing but Beatles songs is a perfect fit—and I’m a transplant from a different part of the country where my sports team loyalties still lie. But I’m no longer someone who will spend 3 hours listening to a baseball or football game. Those days ended when I was a teenager, desperately trying to pull in distant AM stations on a cheap home stereo. And I’m not a traditional sports talk guy to whom something like ESPN can appeal. Start yakkin’ about which college basketball players are going to be drafted in which order, or which NBA star is holding out for a new contract, or which NFL teams are going to cover the spread, and I switch off. Cycling is the only sport for which I want all the tiny details, and I can’t get them.

No, not even SiriusXM, with hundreds of narrowly-defined stations serving hyper-specific interests, can satisfy me. Cycling simply isn’t on the menu. Why should that be true? Cycling has compelling competition, personalities, and controversies like any other sport. Cycling has websites and publications exclusively dedicated to it. Cycling has endless gear choices and enough technical considerations to rival motorsports. Cycling also moves at a snail’s pace compared to something like ice hockey, making it easy to describe as a commentator and to consume as a listener. But forget about live race coverage; what I’m missing is cycling talk that I can jump into for 30 minutes at a time when I’m driving.

There’s an answer: podcasts. Cycling has plenty of them and, as far as I can tell, not one of them earns a dime. That’s not necessarily a reflection on their quality though, and a collection of the best would make for a very respectable SiriusXM channel that people would follow. The podcasters are already producing the content; simply give them a better way to distribute it to a mass audience. Raise those shows from the ranks of mere vanity projects by presenting them as a curated programming lineup and give them a share of the advertising revenue. A single podcast by itself probably isn’t big enough to attract the notice of major sponsors, but wouldn’t the SiriusXM Cycling Channel look good to Trek and Specialized and Giant and Cannondale and REI and Gatorade, etc.? I just know there’s an audience for this.

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