07/27

Howard Stern will stay at Sirius XM

Howard SternI have no insider information on this topic, but it seems to me overwhelmingly likely that Howard Stern’s marriage to Mel Karmazin at Sirius XM will continue for another few years.

Here’s why:

1.  Less is More on Satellite Radio

A little bit of name value goes a long way.  Howard currently works four days a week with plenty of weeks off.  Has this turned off Stern fans?  I doubt it.

And Howard seems to want to work less in the future than he does now.  Call it a “slow fade,” call it “part-time, call it whatever you want.  But you will not call it “retired.”

It’s very likely that Sirius XM will provide less Howard – but will still provide Howard – thus satisfying fans to the degree that Howard’s wishes allow and satisfying Howard with regard to schedule and money.

Commercial radio, meanwhile, tends not to value “less,” since the medium is free so the usage has to be regular – daily, ideally.  In other words, for Sirius XM I make an “on” or “off” decision with my credit card.  For commercial radio I make a new decision every single day – for free.

So a little bit of Howard is worth as much to Sirius XM as a lot of Howard is worth to commercial radio. And if you’re Howard, which would you pick?

2.  The “hybrid” solution is unlikely

It makes perfect sense that Howard could be on Sirius XM one way and on commercial radio another way – handicapped by duration or frequency or recency, for example.

But the appetite for content on commercial radio is such that a handicapped portion of what is likely to be a shrinking show (in terms of hours of content) will be a deal-breaker.  Besides that, Mel and Sirius have shown little to no interest in sharing their premium content with anybody for any reason.  In fact, Sirius XM is sometimes where premium providers go to spread their content (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Major League Sports, etc.) but the reverse is almost never true.

3.  Howard will retain the rights to his digital assets

The “golden goose” is not Howard’s audio archive, it’s Howard’s potential in a digital world.

Sirius XM seems to exhibit little interest in those potential digital assets (or the potential for building out any of its assets beyond streaming in the digital world).  Commercial radio, meanwhile, is slowly beginning to lose its grip on the digital prowess of key talent and shows, but this might be a bargaining chip that scuttles a deal, since I’m betting that Team Stern will want to hold on to those digital rights regardless of whether or not Howard exercises them.

4.  Howard has nothing left to prove on commercial radio

At this point, every case has been stated and every argument has been won. A move to include commercial radio in the portfolio would likely require more work and more hassle. And where’s the evidence he’s interested in either?

5.  Howard is not ready to retire

You can hear it in his voice.  He’s not ready to hang it up.  Work less – yes, but drop out?  No.

So which is the easier deal to take?  The one that keeps Howard in the comfortable surroundings he currently enjoys – and the freedom to speak that accompanies it?  Or the one that bribes him to return to a battle he has already declared won with its frustrating content limitations?

Howard will be on the air at Sirius XM in January 2011 assuming Mel wants Howard and Howard wants Mel.  Just wait.

Less Howard.  But Howard, just the same.

Sounds good to me.

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