For star power, sat radio turns to Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, and Bode Miller

Nov 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

For $13 a month, SIRIUS delivers 120 channels: 65 with commercial-free music, and 55 with news, sports, and talk radio. Aftermarket receivers start at $100; many plug into car or home stereos with adapters (external antenna required), and some function as stand-alone players.

tony hawk

PASS THE MIKE: Hawk dishin' it at his studio, in Vista, California

It's a July evening, and Tony Hawk is broadcasting his first live satellite-radio show from a studio overlooking the massive ramp at his headquarters, in Vista, California. Before spinning an hourlong set that kicks off with Devo's "Gates of Steel" and includes tracks from Rancid and Radiohead, plus bantering with other pro skaters, the Birdman sets a critical ground rule: "We've banned skating on the ramp," he declares. "We can't stand to watch people while we're on air."

The show, dubbed Demolition Radio and airing Tuesdays at 7 p.m., marked the first of a barrage of new programs hosted by action-sport stars on Sirius Satellite Radio's 11-month-old Faction channel. In August, surfing god Kelly Slater kicked off Radio K-OS—broadcast from breaks around the world—by sitting down with hip-hop bluesman G-Love in L.A. Beach volleyball diva Kerri Walsh filed daily reports from the Athens Games en route to a gold medal. This winter, U.S. Ski Team bad boy Bode Miller steps up to the mike.

Sirius's clear goal with Faction is to attract the same hordes that prop up the X Games and Fox's action-sports cable channel, Fuel. With some 500,000 subscribers, Sirius still lags far behind sole competitor XM Radio, which recently topped two million listeners. But as sat radio grows—analysts predict an audience of 25 million by 2009—both companies are following the model of cable TV by investing in highly specialized stations that draw dedicated fans.

"Hawk and Slater have big, committed audiences, and we want them," says Scott Greenstein, head of entertainment at Sirius.

Of course, investing in the slacker set has its risks. "If the radio goes dead," Hawk told listeners during his second show, "we've probably decided to go skating."

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