Howard Stern business proposal: If satellite radio crashes, why not do a podcast?

Howardsternsirius_lWith the news that the struggling satellite radio conglomerate Sirius XM may be filing for bankruptcy, fans of fart jokes and Artie Lange death-watchers everywhere are asking the question: What will happen to Howard Stern?

If Sirius XM needs to cut costs, getting rid of Howard would certainly free up some cash: $100 million a year, actually, which would pay for an awful lot of classic-rock deep cuts. But then again, cutting loose Howard Stern is a good way to lose a lot of subscribers. Stern was saying on his show just this morning that there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just a minor snafu and satellite radio will be ruling the free world on schedule. Obviously, that’s what he needs to say — it wouldn’t do to have the flagship host crapping his pants on air. And if it comes to pass that satellite radio does sign off, Stern’s listeners needn’t panic because satellite radio needs him more than he needs satellite radio.

I was e-mailing with marketing wizard and lifelong Sternophile Ernest Lupinacci (here’s some Stern inside-baseball trivia: Ernest is the man who orchestrated the Robert Goulet version of “Restless Restless.” If you’re a fan, you’ll know what that means), and he proposed that Stern could easily do the show on his own and sell it as a daily podcast, using the Ricky Gervais model. “In the new digital age, distribution is fungible,” Ernest wrote, adding that if Stern builds himself a studio, he can record a daily show and then easily distribute it to subscribers. Let’s say he has 3 million listeners willing to pay just $3 per month for daily podcasts. (As compared to Sirius XM’s $12.95 monthly rate.) That’s $108 million in revenue a year. And, Ernest adds, “he could hire a competent sales guy, and if they can generate (conservatively) another million a month in ad revenue — that’s $12 million more.” It ain’t Sirius money, and he’d likely have to pare down his staff, but it’s enough to keep his core group of cohosts and producers happy, with a little money left over for a Purell budget. (You don’t want to know the germs that a guest like Jeff the Vomit Guy will leave behind.)

addCredit(“Larry Busacca/WireImage”)

It’s a great idea. Stern could tape the show in the afternoon, andmake it available right afterward; for the first time in his life, hecould sleep later than 5 a.m. on a regular basis. Sure, there would bedownsides: For example, if he did a show for download only, then he’dhave to tape it in advance, which means no call-ins. But really,haven’t we all heard enough phone calls from Eric the Midget to last usa few years? (He could plan ahead for phoners, though then he runs therisk of something like this.)

I actually think that with a podcast, his audience might grow closerto his old terrestrial numbers. (He used to boast 12 millionlisteners.) A lot of his old fans probably weren’t motivated to buy asatellite radio, thinking it was too complicated or expensive. And thenthere are people like me, for whom satellite radio is impractical: WhenI lived in L.A. and drove everywhere, I used to listen to Stern duringmy commute. But now I live in New York City, and travel by subway towork. (I’ve yet to find someone who has anything good to say aboutSirius’s portable Stiletto receiver.) But everybody’scomfortable with MP3 players these days; even Stern’s yahooiest ofyahoo listeners can figure one out. If a Stern fan discovered he coulddownload the latest show onto his iPod in a minute right before dashingout the door in the morning, he’d sign up.

And one final advantage to a podcast: You can fast forward. If he’stalking to a guest you have no interest in (or his irritatinghairdresser Ralph), you can skip ahead, and aren’t held hostage bySirius’ replay schedule. Wow, just the thought of fast-forwardingthrough Ralph is almost making me hope for satellite radio’s demise.

What do you think, Stern fans? Would you pay for a Howard podcast?


Comments (96 total) Add your comment
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  • Kevin

    Howard Stern is not going any where, he’s the only bright spot Sirius has and losing him will be a major blow for them. Sirius/XM will survive this, Mark my words.

  • Janet

    “Obviously, that’s what he needs to say — it wouldn’t do to have the flagship host crapping his pants on air.”
    Why would he need to crap in his pants? Howard has enough money to retire if he choose to. Great, another bias article for EW, how surprising.

  • canuck

    I love Ralph. His views are from a different perspective. No to podcasting. Where’s Artie?

  • aaron bowen

    It’s actually a thrilling time to be a Stern fan, because if they do stupidly boot him out of the company, I doubt he’d retire, and I’m sure whatever he did would be cutting edge technology wise.

  • owner/listener

    As Tug McGraw once said, ” Sometimes you just gotta believe”.

  • Anonymous

    there is already a great FREE podcast that is on par or better then Stern and that is KEITH AND THE GIRL. katg.com

  • chief2224

    Josh – first, I love all the Stern references – “Restless, Restless”! I think this actually makes a ton of sense and – from a money perspective – could work out better for Howard. If I recall correctly, a good portion of his pay comes in the form of Sirius stock. So the pricing model you suggest might actually earn him more. As a diehard fan I would pay that money without even thinking about it. But, more importantly, I know plenty of casual fans who won’t pay for the Sirius equipment and subscriptions but would easily shell out a few bucks for a podcast that is easier to access than Sirius. Even if Sirius does make it, I hope that Howard will consider this business model after his contract runs out. Baba Booey to y’all!

  • chief2224

    Canuck – Artie was out “sick” again today. He said it wasn’t drugs, it was a personal issue. Whatever it was, I don’t think the guy is doing very well.

  • Al williams

    Hell to the North!!!

  • Tom Strong

    Stern has been sh!t since we got divorced.

  • nodummy

    it’s available every day for free on torrents, so I would be willing to pay 0.0
    no need for someone to make $500 million for working 5 hrs a day for 150 days/yr. Most of that time is spent commenting on the news and asking porn sluts to ride the sybian.

  • Not Janet

    Janet, I don’t think you get the idea of this piece – it’s an opinion, not a reported article. Bias is inherent in opinion, and this is a professional writer who has expressed his. Feel free to disagree, but calling it biased is like calling a bible story moralistic.
    Not to mention, apples to oranges on what would constitute Stern crapping his pants. The author isn’t saying Stern wants the money and therefore is crapping his pants in private, he’s saying it’s a smart business move to keep his emotions and/or fears to himself.

  • Jeff W.

    I have Sirius and I love it. I can’t imagine ever listening to terrestrial radio again. The $13/month is worth it to have no commercials. This is a stupid article, Stern isn’t going anywhere. Also, he would never do the podcast thing because he doesn’t need to. A $500 million dollar paycheck means that he probably won’t ever starve.

  • EMan

    About the only thing i’d bet on….the SiriusXM common shareholders are gonna be wiped out!

  • Anonymous

    I dont think Howard will go the podcast route. If Sirius/XM sinks, he’ll probably retire.

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