In 2008, Arbitron released figures for satellite radio listenership showing just more than 17 million listeners per week are tuning in. Many of those following satellite radio complained that the survey was inaccurate and biased since it was based on traditional means of measuring audiences for terrestrial radio.  While the last listenership study was part of a larger listenership survey on radio in general, Arbitron has now released the findings of a study specifically aimed at finding out how many people are listening to Sirius/XM.

The study conducted between October and November 2009 found listenership is larger than previously estimated and ranks much higher in key demographic areas compared to the general population and AM/FM radio listeners.  According to the study, satellite radio has more than 35 million listeners each week, with listeners spending about two hours and 45 minutes listening per day.  Further, the study found that most of that listening taking place, not surprisingly where most radio listenership takes place, in the car.

These listeners also prefer listening to satellite radio over other radio options.  They spend 71% of their time listening to satellite compared with 17% of their time listening to AM/FM radio, and five percent of the time using mobile devices.  The most significant findings, however, aren’t the sheer number of listeners, but rather the demographics of those listeners, specifically their education and income levels:

  • 56% of listeners graduated from college or have advanced degrees, compared with 24% of AM/FM radio listeners and 25% of the general population.
  • 24% of Sirius/XM listeners have household incomes of $150,000 or more, compared with nine percent of AM/FM radio listeners and the general population.

While we now we know satellite radio has the audience, how do we know who is listening to which station?  That’s the next survey we’d suggest undertaking, so we would have insight into programming that is most compelling to listeners.  Satellite radio has a myriad of choices, from music only stations to lifestyle programming like Martha Stewart, to shock jocks like Howard Stern, so knowing the type of programming that is drawing the lion’s share of the audience is key to getting messages where they’ll have the most impact and resonate most with listeners.


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