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Illegal Stern downloads are the best thing that could ever happen to SIRIUS

The LA Times reports that illicit downloading of Howard Stern’s SIRIUS show increased five-fold after that paper reported on the wide availability of Stern’s show on Internet file-sharing networks (I like the idea that the Times is creating the very news it’s reporting, but that’s a different issue).

This, we are told, is bad. The tone in the trades suggests this is an opportunity for broadcasters to smirk. But we had better wipe that smirk off our face.

The availability of illegal Stern downloads is good, not bad. Good for Stern, and good for SIRIUS.

It is, in fact, the only way for listeners to experience a “free sample” of Stern’s new show – the very show SIRIUS expects those listeners to someday pay for. But wait, you might argue, listeners have had a generation of free samples of Stern – but not the new show – and, more importantly, not in the past month or two.

Illegal downloads of Stern’s show are the equivalent of the free samples in the supermarket. If you like the taste, then maybe you’ll buy the product.

All the discussion about how many subscribers SIRIUS will need to pay for Stern and so on and so forth misses the obvious truth:

It is inevitable that Stern will be available in both free and subscription form on the web at some point in the near future. From SIRIUS. You are naive if you think his show will be exclusively available on Satellite.

SIRIUS will be in the Stern business. Not vice versa.

You heard it here first.

Radio thinks they have heard the last of Howard Stern.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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