What Will Howard Do? Stern's Contract Up in Six Months
By Jo Piazza Posted Jul 2nd 2010 01:00PM
Howard Stern's contract expires on Dec. 31, 2010, and after that he will be an unrestricted free agent. He'll be free to re-sign a contract with Sirius XM Radio, free to retire, free to return to terrestrial radio or free to start an entirely new career. Free to judge 'American Idol'? Yes, but that probably won't happen (even though we think he's the perfect choice).
So what will he do? That's what millions of fans are dying to know.
Howard recently said on his show that the end of the calendar year is really not a deadline for him to leave Sirius. There is a possibility that he could begin going month-to-month and figure things out in 2011. Howard has said that if he were to stay, he wants to negotiate a later start time for the show, but Sirius execs aren't too pleased about that idea. That much at least shows the two sides are talking about possibly moving forward together.
Stern's longtime fan base remains exceedingly loyal and they, along with Sirius, have made him a very wealthy man. According to the recently released Forbes Celebrity 100, Howard made $70 million this past year. Sirius pays him $100 million annually and he pays his show's production costs out of his own pocket.
But we know Howard isn't in this for the money, at this point.
If Howard wishes to stay in broadcasting, he has options outside of satellite radio. He could even go into business for himself.
"I think he should move over to a web-based show. That way, you wouldn't need any special equipment to listen to him, most cell phones already have Internet on them. So you get in your car, plug your phone in, instant Howard," says Stern's former program director at WXRC, Anthony Michaels. "You can go to the gym, plug headphones in, you get Howard, at work at home, as long as you have Internet, you get the show. If Howard charges $4.99 a month for his site, and just 2 million people follow him, that's $10 million a month."
The benefits of going into business for himself? No boss, no FCC regulation, no mandated start time. It would be Howard on demand when Howard wants to do it.
If he goes with this option, how will he lure in listeners? On his last day at Sirius, he could always announce that Artie Lange will be making his return on Howard's web-based show in January and get them psyched for an Artie tell-all.
Internet and HD radio are edgy right now, and Howard could be exactly what they need to start making some serious inroads with audiences, but heading back to terrestrial radio could just be the best move for Stern, and no one would fault him for returning.
"The Sirius experiment was interesting and fun, but Howard's audience wants to have less bills and not more. His best bet is to go back to terrestrial radio. He can go back any day without apologies," says Cooper Lawrence, host of the syndicated 'Cooper Lawrence Show.' "He is always welcome. He is iconic and has changed the face of radio. He should go for terrestrial with syndication. That's where the money is for him -- without him having to nickel-and-dime his fan base."
There has been speculation that Stern will leave radio altogether to become a host on 'American Idol,' replacing departing judge Simon Cowell in the fall.
But Stern's wife, Beth Ostrosky, revealed to People magazine this week that as much as she would love to see her husband judging the show, she doesn't think it is likely to happen.
Radio insiders say that whatever Stern's next project, he will manage to find a way to keep his long-loyal staff employed and very involved in his life.
"While it may look like Stern's staff has no idea what he is up to from the outside, this group is like a family and they have access to way more information than we know. But they're loyal. Why do you think things never get leaked," one longtime radio producer told us. "He will be taking care of them."
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