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Howard Stern’s impact on Satellite Radio

Last week I harshly critiqued research conducted on behalf of American Media Services, a radio station broker. The research concluded that most folks are not likely to subscribe to Satellite Radio simply because Howard Stern has gone there.

I called this “junk research” primarily because the news release, published widely in the trades, listed no specifics about the research and, in fact, was not even mentioned on American Media Services’ website. To all intents and purposes this was the research equivalent of “vaporware.”

The folks at AMS took exception to my characterizations and shared the source research with me so I could judge that research directly. Following my post last week, they also added some of this source material to their website which does now mention this research (good job, guys).

I appreciate them sending me this stuff, and I want to be clear about my critique: Anybody has the right to do and announce the results of any research they want. It is the responsibility of the trade publications which publish this information to review the source material before they publish the spin. This was not done. And that was the essence of my criticism.

About the research itself: Yes, they really did it. And yes, it was done well, as far as sample methodology goes. It was a 1,000 person random random and representative study of the US. No quibbles from me.

Interestingly, the central conclusion about Stern’s influence (or lack thereof) on the mass audience is pretty much a no-brainer. I don’t think anyone at any time believed that Howard would move more than a couple million people to subscribe, did they? In case anyone was under some illusion, the research results here will set them straight.

Here are some questions they asked:

“Satellite Radio requires you to purchase equipment, normally over $100 and pay a monthly fee of approximately $12. How likely would you say you are to purchase Satellite Radio over the next 12 months?”


“Now that Howard Stern has recently begun airing his show on Satellite Radio, how likely are you, if at all, to consider purchasing a Satellite Radio in the future?”

In both cases, the “Very Likely” response was between 2.5 and 3%.

If you work out the math with the lower number, 2.5%, and assume these are the same folks in both cases (and they’re probably not), in a country of 200 million (age 18 and over), that’s 5 or so million “very likely” new Satellite subscribers. And those are the folks who say “very likely” to a question where no benefits or product qualities, other than Stern, are described. Also, just because you don’t say “very likely” now doesn’t mean you can’t do so later.

5 million new subs. Is that a lot or a little? To the radio industry it’s a little. To the satellite folks, that’s a lot.

So, based on this data, is Howard Stern capable of moving at least a couple million subscriptions? Answer: Most definitely.

There’s other stuff worth discussing in this study, too. And you’re going to find it interesting. More on that tomorrow.

And thanks to American Media Services for providing this source information and paying for this study.

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