Well, folks, it’s been what? Six weeks? Seven? Art Bell’s Dark Matter hit the ground running on September 16, 2013, but as of tonight its time on the air may be coming to an end.
Here’s the story: At the end of last week’s Spooky Matter Halloween show, Art Bell revealed that he’d reached out to SiriusXM and asked if they would allow him to stream live episodes of Dark Matter, for free, on his website at ArtBell.com.
Now, at the time I thought this was an odd request. Not because it’s a bad idea necessarily, but because, from a business standpoint, SiriusXM likely wouldn’t play ball. Why would they? They’re a subscription-based service, and that’s not how things tend to work even though we’d like them to.
“Art makes an important announcement concerning the future of the show. He’s concerned that the SiriusXM streaming mobile app and web player are not up to the job (1001 errors) and suggests that we (artbell.com) serve the program LIVE using other Internet streaming protocols (Icecast), to allow a more favorable listening experience and to allow the streaming of the LIVE program for FREE all over the world.
You would still use your SiriusXM subscription to listen to the archives on demand, and be able to download programs with your SiriusXM mobile app to listen while off line. The LIVE program would be available for 4 hours each of the 4 days a week via an alternative streaming service, on ArtBell.com, allowing a larger audience to call in and participate.”
That’s nice. I personally haven’t had any real issues with the SiriusXM app or website. I think I may have lost my connection once on my smartphone, and I listened to every show. Now, I understand that others have had problems, but even so, that was a pretty bold request.
Fast forward to tonight, and I notice that the guest list has suddenly become blank. Then this pops up on Art Bell’s Facebook page (which, if what I’m reading is correct, has been deactivated):
“Sometimes when you are “all in” you win, sometimes lose.
By mutual agreement, Dark Matter will no longer air as of tonight.”
That was unexpected.
Now, I don’t know what’s really going on here. Was this actually over a dispute with SiriusXM about streaming the show on ArtBell.com? Why did anyone have to go “all in” on anything? Does Art Bell have other plans?
To paint a somewhat clearer picture, here’s what we have so far.
Art Bell sent the following email to a member of BellGab.com with some explanation (it appears now to be an automated response):
“I started the show with the expectation that my listener’s would be able to stream the show since most were coming from AM. They started the thirty day trial and found that it was dropping out on them every few minutes. After the 30 day trial most did not renew, why would they?
Faced with paying about $180 bucks a Year for something that was not working right, what would you do? So I lost my base. My show is based on call in, if all I am left with is Truck drivers with cell phones going down the road at 70 MPH, well you get the idea. So I asked Sirius to allow free streaming for a Year until they could fix their problems and they said no. The show was simply not viable under these conditions.”
If subscriptions are being cancelled and fewer listeners are calling in due to problems actually accessing the show (or an unwillingness to subscribe), I guess that’s a real concern. In fact, the lack of callers was almost obvious in the number of times the same people were able to get on the air. Art Bell sent another email to a member of BellGab.com elaborating on this:
“I saw a post recently on Bell Gab that said the Spooky Matter show was the weakest ever. I agree, and it would be downhill from there under the current situation. I thought it was entirely reasonable to ask for a Year to try and reach the users who had tried the 30 day trial and threw up their hands and left. All I wanted was streaming that worked.
The success of my original show and the new show depended on callers, many of my best shows were as a result of open lines. Yes I could fill the lines with truckers, bless their hearts, but I could not have made the kind of show that you and all the other callers had a right to expect. Cell phones just do not work well going down the street at 70 MPH.”
We still had the guests, though, right? And I don’t think SiriusXM had any intention of cancelling a show they had only just begun. This was a different format on a subscription-based service, a far cry from free AM radio. Of course things were going to be different. A new audience needed to be built.
As to whether or not Art Bell may be thinking about hosting a podcast or show on his website without SiriusXM’s involvement, this was the reply found on ArtBell.com’s Facebook page:
Then again, there’s this little snippet that appeared on the website itself:
“We are sorry that Dark Matter on SiriusXM has come to an abrupt end. We’ll examine our options and may be able to return in a different format and medium.
In the mean time, ArtBell.com will still operate as long as financially possible, hoping for a workable solution to bring Art back to you, soon. Keep checking back here often.”
I guess we’ll see what happens. It’s way too early to tell, but I thought I’d post my reaction, anyway. And who knows? This may not even be the end of Dark Matter. Perhaps it’s the beginning of something else.
Talk about strange…