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Illustration of Mark Redmond, chief executive officer of Sirius XM Canada Holdings Inc. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Illustration of Mark Redmond, chief executive officer of Sirius XM Canada Holdings Inc. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

THE LUNCH

Sirius XM Canada’s Mark Redmond: A quiet guy with lots of listeners Add to ...

Mr. Redmond said he doesn’t mind spending the money. But he doesn’t understand why his company should be forced to pay fees and meet Canadian content requirements when Internet-based competitors such as Songza or Slacker sell subscription music services in this country, but don’t contribute to the domestic broadcasting system.

It’s a refrain often heard from the country’s television providers, who face similar threats from services such as Netflix. But the CRTC has decided to keep its hands off Internet-only services, leaving companies such as Sirius XM Canada to fight competitors “with both hands tied back” while being told by regulators that these online services aren’t a threat to their existence.

“They keep saying it hasn’t materially affected our business,” he says. “My point to them would be, ‘Yeah, and MP3s didn’t have any effect on record labels right away but look what happened 10 years later.’ I’m good either way – regulate everyone or don’t regulate anyone. Let’s get into a fair fight.”

Mr. Redmond also spends a lot of time thinking about technology. The company has always been perceived as a tech company, he says, even though those within the company prefer to think of it as a content company.

“One of the debates I have around here every now and then is ‘Are we a cable provider or are we HBO?’” he says. “I’d like to think of us more as an HBO.”

But even the best content needs to be delivered somehow, and Sirius XM Canada is convinced the way to build subscriber rates and profit is to remain focused on the car market. There are 23 million registered vehicles in Canada, with another 1.7 million sold each year. Sirius XM Canada radios will be factory-installed in about 55 per cent of those new ones.

While having radios preinstalled gives the company a head start, each new model presents new challenges. A satellite unit used to be considered a state-of-the-art feature, but manufacturers are jamming more functions than ever into a dashboard. Some cars now come with large, Internet-enabled screens that come with free apps that bundle radio services from around the world as well as enhanced GPS features.

“The car guys are at a point where they need to start asking how much you can throw into a screen on the dashboard without sending people off the road,” he says.

It’s the closest he has come to a joke in the two-hour lunch, but he’s quickly back to his serious self when I ask about the danger of embedded electronics in vehicles. If there’s one thing he’s learned from running a radio company, it seems, it’s how to change the channel.

CURRICULUM VITAE

Personal:

Born Aug. 22, 1960

Graduated from Humber College with a marketing diploma in 1982.

Married to Melissa; two sons, Kyle, 17, and Cameron, 13.

Career:

Spent his teenage years caddying at Toronto’s St. George’s Golf and Country Club, where he is now a member.

Worked through college, selling electronics at Six Points TV and driving a forklift at Sears.

Spent 17 years at Thomson Multimedia in Canada, the United States and Singapore, rising to vice-president of worldwide audio and video products.

Appointed senior vice-president of special projects with U.S.-based Sirius Satellite Radio.

Named president and CEO of Sirius Canada in 2005.

Took over the merged Sirius XM Canada in 2011.

From his bio:

“When not at work, Mark can usually be found in a hockey rink with one of his boys, on a golf course, or at the cottage and on the water … for entertainment, aside from listening to SiriusXM’s great content, Mark is currently enjoying the Showtime/Bravo series Homeland.”

Verbatim:

On the future of satellite radio: “We’re looking at taking channels you are accustomed to listening to and letting you customize them when you’re listening online. So you will have slider bars you can toggle – maybe you want more live performances from that channel, or more stuff from later in a decade.”

On a Web-only model: “The U.S. has sold a standalone Web subscription at the same price as their core subscriptions, but they’ve had minimal uptake. We’ve played around with some price points, but the problem when we do that is then we’re competing on the Internet and getting compared directly to things that are free. That’s not our business model.”

A colleague’s opinion:

“His style is an unrelenting focus on the bottom line. He has no interest in showmanship, just delivering on results.”

– Phil Evershed, managing director at Canaccord Genuity and Sirius XM Canada board member

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