Howard Stern may be the face that launched four satellites (now 9), but as he wraps up his fifth year on Sirius satellite radio both his listeners and stock analysts are wondering if the King of All Media will continue to broadcast from orbit come 2011. Stern’s current $500 million contract is set to run out on December 31, and his last show of the year is December 17. But so far there’s been no word about how negotiations are going.
What little has been said publicly is vague. Last Friday morning Stern’s producer Gary Dell’Abate told a New York morning program that, ” Howard is negotiating, but we’ve never gone this far before … everybody is nervous, including me.” Tuesday on his show Stern also cryptically discussed his plans for the program once he signs a new contract.
Even post-merger, Stern is still arguably the most prominent personality associated with Sirius-XM. But with the financial troubles that have dogged the whole satellite radio industry, one has to think that Sirius is much less willing to pony up another half-billion to hold onto him.
Now, Sirius has signed Dr. Laura, but her transition from broadcast wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Stern’s, who was still at the top of his game when he left FM in 2005. I doubt Dr. Laura can possibly be as big a draw as Howard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if losing Stern would cause thousands of his most loyal listeners to cancel their subscriptions.
Of course, the big question is if Stern is enough of an asset to make or break Sirius-XM at this point in its development. If so, how much is he worth? If not, how much will it cost Sirius?
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.