Howard Stern stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars through his move to Sirius (NSDQ: SIRI) from *CBS* Radio but what has he lost? Millions of listenersand with them, relevance and influence, contends the LA Times. The exploits and the FCC battles that made him famous and kept him in the news are in the past. LAT: "So far, the radio personality's leap from traditional media to a niche platform has come at a heavy pricenamely, cultural relevancy. Unlike an Arianna Huffington, who vastly increased her reach on her upstart website, Stern's place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur in the din of the exploding entertainment universe."
Then again, Huffington's upstart site is free and Stern's audience is subscription. It's also loyal. The Sirius-XM (NSDQ: XMSR) Radio merger expands his potential audience to about 19 million but in a way that's reminiscent of cable networks available in 70 million homes with only a fraction of those ever tuning in. Analysts peg his audience no higher than 2 million but Sirius says those figures are low. Sirius subscribers get Stern on satellite radio and internet radio as part of the full $12.95 package; as of last week, XM subscribers can add the show, which hasn't changed all that much by most accounts, for $4.
What has changed? The LAT says the quality of Stern's guests: "With a reduced audience, Stern's show is no longer a prime stop on the major film promotion circuit. And the A-list guests who used to submit to Stern's biting personal questions in order to hype their projects have become scarce." He's also missing the sense of controversy stirred up by the fights with the FCC.
Stern is under contract to Sirius through 2010. Would he switch back? Maybe, but as talk-radio host Tom Leykis told the paper: "Even if he does have a smaller audience in terms of his cumulative audience, that won't last forever. Terrestrial radio is hemorrhaging audience as it tries to find its place in the Digital Age, while satellite is up tremendously."
By Staci D. Kramer