Sirius XM snags former Disney+ exec as its new head of product and technology

Sirius XM, home to the satellite radio business and streaming music app Pandora, is bringing on a new head of product and technology, as the company plans to expand its focus beyond the car to better compete with streaming rivals, like Spotify. The company this morning announced its hiring of former MLB and Disney exec Joseph Inzerillo as its new chief product and technology officer. He will begin his new role on January 10, 2022.

Jim Cady, Sirius XM’s chief innovation officer, who has been serving as interim head of Product Development, will be retiring after eight years with the company. He will work with Inzerillo through February 2022 during the transition.

Prior to joining the audio entertainment company, Inzerillo was an executive vice president and chief technology officer for Disney’s streaming arm, where he helped to oversee all aspects of that business, including the streaming, commerce, platform development and globalization plans for Disney+, ESPN+, Star+ and Hulu. Inzerillo first joined Disney in 2017 with its acquisition of BAMTech Media, where he had served as EVP and chief technology officer.

Previously, Inzerillo had been CTO for Major League Baseball, including its flagship media companies MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network. In this role, he launched, the first over-the-top sports offering, “instant replay” and wireless connectivity in all 30 ballparks, and shaped MLB’s digital business. This ultimately led to the spinoff of its streaming technology platform, BAMTech Media, which he helped found.

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

While not necessarily a household name, the BAMTech platform has powered big names in streaming, including HBO Now, WWE Network, Eurosport Player, Fox Sports and the NHL.

At Sirius XM, the exec will be tasked with helping oversee the company’s Information Technology and Broadcast Infrasture and the team that builds and operates those platforms. In total, he will lead a team of 1,500+ engineers and product professionals across Sirius XM, Pandora and Stitcher. He will also be in charge of Sirius XM’s product roadmap, satellite infrastructure and its overall technology vision and innovation, and will report directly to Sirius XM CEO Jennifer Witz.

The hire is a big win for Sirius XM, which has been struggling to compete with Spotify and others in terms of consumer interest. Though the company delivered on its last earnings, its stock has lost 3% of its value over the last five years versus a 120% gain in Spotify during the same time, for example. In its most recent quarter, Sirius XM reported year-over-year revenue growth of 9% to reach $2.2 billion in its third quarter and a record 616,000 net new self-pay Sirius XM subscribers to its satellite radio business. At the end of Q3, Sirius XM had 34.1 million total subscribers, down from 34.3 million in the same quarter last year, but projected that by Q4, this year will be its biggest yet on subscriber growth since 2018.

Still, much of Sirius XM’s business is reliant on automaker partnerships and preinstalls, and catered to a workforce that spent a lot of time commuting to and from the office. The pandemic has reshaped how people work — now often from home — and autos come equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrations that allow customers to easily use their own preferred streaming apps. Combined, these factors could make satellite radio a harder sell long-term, as its cross-platform experience — particularly on the mobile app side — is somewhat lacking.

The company’s 2018 $3.5 billion acquisition of Pandora hasn’t gone that well, either. The streaming app continues to lose traction with consumers, dropping to 52.6 million monthly active users in Q3 down, from 55.1 million in Q2 and 58.6 million a year ago. Meanwhile, Sirius XM has invested in podcasting with its $325 million acquisition of Stitcher and another for Simplecast for analytics and distribution tools. And it has pursued other initiatives to try to connect with consumers, like Pandora’s new SoundCloud station and its TikTok partnership.

Inzerillo’s hire could shake things up at the company, allowing it to better capitalize on the products and services it offers.

“I am a long-time listener and huge fan of SiriusXM, and I could not be more excited to join this team,” said Inzerillo, in a statement. “Streaming and over-the-top offerings have revolutionized the entertainment industry – and audio is no exception. This opportunity is the culmination of all of my professional experiences over the last 30 years, and one I simply could not pass up. From the moment I accepted the role, my mind has been racing with ideas for how we can expand digital capabilities across SiriusXM’s business. Together, our team will develop a product and technology roadmap that will further differentiate SiriusXM and bring creative new entertainment options to consumers at scale.”

CEO Jennifer Witz also praised Inzerillo’s 30 years of digital media experience and hinted toward forthcoming product changes in a staff memo, noting:

With Joe’s wide breadth of experience in building and leading innovative digital platforms, I am confident that he will be instrumental in the development and evolution of our growth strategies across our entire suite of products. As a long-time listener, Joe is eager to come on board and work collaboratively with all of the top-notch talent we have at our Company. His excitement about our products and what the future holds is energizing, and I look forward to all that we will accomplish under Joe’s leadership of this expanded Product and Technology organization.