Whether or not Stern renews his contract is the topic du jour these days. Each day we are subjected to Sterns own opinion, the opinion of the media, and the opinion of all of Stern’s fans. Opinions are a great thing, and contrasting opinions makes for good debate and perhaps some good radio as well.
The reason Howard Stern will remain at Sirius XM is actually quite simple. HIS EGO. After decades on the airwaves, his methods and personality are well known. Stern is an exacting person who revels in the subject of Howard Stern. When on terrestrial radio, his moves did not tale him off of the FM dial. It simply transitioned him to another channel already available in the same market. Each successive change brought him a better contract, and all he had to do was shift to a new work address. The shift to satellite was a big step. It meant losing listeners who did not want to pay to hear Stern. It also meant more freedom than he had ever had before.
If Stern were to shift to a platform such as Internet Radio he would not have the ability to say that the “new show will be better because it is uncensored”. It would simply be another shift that would make people pay to gain access. It would mean fans would have to upgrade their cell phones to a smart phone. It would mean that people would need to pay more each month to get data. It would mean that he will in effect need to start over.
When Stern left terrestrial radio he predicted they would suffer. Terrestrial radio has suffered. They did suffer from his departure, but the bulk of that suffering was the condition of the economy and not the absence of Howard Stern. People who did not move to satellite simply found something else to listen to.
Stern also likes to credit himself with the merger being a direct result of his arrival at Sirius. Stern was probably a part of that, but believe me when I say this, Mel had the merger planned even before his own deal was publicized. Mel was working the merger when Stern was still broadcasting on terrestrial radio! Stern loves to be an integral part of something. It is in his ego. It is who he is. I am not being critical here, I am simply stating the obvious.
In Howard Sterns mind he is the reason for the success of Sirius XM and the reason that the two satellite radio companies merged. What would happen if Stern left and satellite radio survived without him? Whether Stern stays or leaves, satellite radio will succeed. Stern knows this. Can his ego handle a thriving satellite radio platform while he does podcasts? If Stern is as powerful as he imagines himself to be, it would mean that satellite radio would suffer terribly in his absence. That simply is not going to happen. Even if the hard core fans cancel in protest of Sirius XM not resigning Stern, the numbers will be quickly absorbed by a massive influx of subscribers delivered via the OEM channel. Stern is at a point in his life when he should be winding down, not starting over.
Would a Howard Stern app get a ton of initial downloads? Sure it would, but how long will it last. The number of people that are “Howard only” is finite. Most listeners like the show, but also listen to many other things. Sterns initial success away from satellite would bring about confidence that the move was smart, but the numbers over the first year would demonstrate less and less of an audience, and the ad dollars would dry up.
Sterns best solution is to remain with Sirius XM. It is simply a matter of dollars. Can anyone else pay him what he makes now? Can anyone else deliver the potential audience he has now? Satellite radio has 30 million active listeners that all have the ability and potential to tune in. That number grows daily. A Howard Stern app would have to start at 0 listeners, with the potential of the audience being diminished by whether or not people have a smart phone, whether or not they want to upgrade, whether or not they know how to use it, and whether or not they find a pre-recorded show appealing.
Howard Stern is in a tighter box than he will admit. Yes, he can go anywhere, but the expense of doing so may not be something his ego can handle. Sirius XM will need to pony up big bucks to keep him, and the debate on whether he is worth it is a subject for another article. Stern will stay with Sirius XM because his options away from the satellite radio provider require a lot of work, marketing, and most of all a lot of risk to his ego.
Position – Long Sirius XM