It appears as if Howard Stern is ready to sign on the dotted line and return to SiriusXM for another multi-year run, as long as the company meets one key demand. A new report indicates that there's just one obstacle now standing in the way of Stern's renewal: money.
"I'm very hopeful that we'll get an agreement done with Howard," Sirius CEO James Meyer acknowledged in an interview on investor day for Liberty Media, the majority stakeholder in the satellite radio company. He admitted that the "one thing" the two sides have not agreed upon yet is money.
Stern's initial five-year contract with the company, which began in 2006, reportedly paid him $100 million per year, and his subsequent renewal for another five-year time-frame supposedly saw him compensated at $80 million annually. On air, Stern has disputed reports that he had taken a "pay cut," claiming they were false. Stern's workload was cut from four weekly shows to three in his second contract, so while he may be receiving less money, he's also working fewer days.
There's no word on how either side is valuing his presence at SiriusXM for another five years, but it's pretty clear the two sides are ultimately still a great fit for each other. While Stern has been rumored to be considering a new delivery method for his show through Apple Music, Netflix or some other wireless media platform, a huge portion of Stern's audience listens to him in their vehicle. SiriusXM's availability in cars makes it the most viable delivery system for Howard's content. Wireless audio streaming in vehicles is not simple or available enough yet to accommodate Stern fans, many of which are from an older demographic that isn't necessarily tech savvy.
Stern is also a creature of habit, and his comfort level with the show and his surroundings is at an all-time high. Stern's presentation has evolved in a more mature direction lately, relying less upon the sophomoric humor emphasized in his earlier days. His mutually-respectful relationship with Liberty and Meyer has healed prior wounds inflicted by old management's refusal to pay Howard contractually-agreed upon subscriber target bonuses he argues were triggered when Sirius merged with its former rival, XM (Stern launched an unsuccessful lawsuit on the matter shortly after renewing his first contract). Liberty and Meyer even recently agreed to move the show's start time up an hour, from 6 to 7 am, at Howard's request. For months now, Stern has been completely silent on air with regards to mentioning any negotiations or his impending contract expiration.
As much as SiriusXM is a good fit for Howard, the company may actually need him more than he does them. Stern is the undisputed king of radio, and of the entire SiriusXM programming slate. No radio personality has ever come close to amassing the rabid audience following or commanding the huge salary that Stern has. Many of Stern's millions of fans subscribe to SiriusXM specifically because of him. It would be a huge blow to SiriusXM to lose Howard, a unique and irreplaceable radio titan.
The good news is that, based on Meyer's comments, it appears as if the two sides have acknowledged to each other that they want to make a deal, and have essentially agreed on all terms but value.
Meanwhile, Stern fans are hoping for an early Christmas each and every morning when they tune in, waiting to hear the results of their wish for another five crazy years with Howard, Robin and the gang.