Shock jock Howard Stern’s move to satellite radio three years ago has cost him a large part of his listening audience — and much of his cultural relevancy.
Stern’s syndicated show on terrestrial radio once drew an audience of 12 million, but also drew the frequent attention of the Federal Communications Commission, which levied hefty fines for indecency.
Tired of battling the FCC, and of lengthy commercial breaks, Stern moved to unregulated Sirius Satellite Radio, signing a 5-year contract worth $500 million.
Mel Karmazin, CEO of the newly merged Sirius XM Radio, recently told Advertising Age that the deal was a “steal” for his company.
But Stern’s reach has shrunk since the move. Thanks to the recent Sirius-XM merger, he will now be able to reach a potential audience of some 19 million subscribers. But XM subscribers must pay extra to get Stern’s show, and radio analysts told the Los Angeles Times that the actual size of Stern’s daily satellite audience is between 1 million and 2 million.
“The radio personality’s leap from traditional media to a niche platform has come at a heavy price — namely, cultural relevancy,” according to the Times. “Stern’s place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur.”
While on terrestrial radio Stern regularly landed A-list Hollywood stars, his guests now are limited largely to “fading stars, cable TV personalities and loyal friends,” the Times observed.
This summer his guests included Joan Rivers, Hulk Hogan and Ernest Borgnine.
He has also been missing something else — controversy.
The fines levied by the FCC over the years generated loads of publicity for his show, as well as for his books and pay-per-view TV specials.
“Controversies that made the news definitely helped his visibility,” said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, but “he’s not in the news anymore.”
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