In today’s Daily News, David Hinckley and Talkers’ Michael Harrison speculate that when Howard Stern’s Sirius XM contract is up, he could use the internet to start his own broadcasting company.
Indeed, he could. Technology makes it possible: We could listen to him – and watch him – on the internet, on our iPods, and even now on our web-enabled phones. There’s no longer a need for a distribution network.
The numbers could be impressive. Stern brought an estimated 6-8 million listeners to Sirius. I’ve talked with a measurement company that did a study on his impact on satellite and concluded that a majority of users were there and paying $12.95 a month because of him. So say that half those people – 3.5 million – would pay half that much – $6 – to get Stern anywhere and on-demand. That’s $252 million. Absurd? OK, so charge $1 a month; that’s $42 million (though at a lower price, the volume would surely increase). Add in a little ad revenue but not much, judging on the crap accounts Sirius has been getting. Marketing? Stern doesn’t need it because his audience is his agency. And Stern doesn’t need to share any of that with Sirius XM. His only cost is his staff and bandwidth. Ah, but you say, he made a reported $500 million for his five-year Sirius contract. But I believe some of that came in equity and as a shareholder, I can tell you that isn’t doing so well. The point is, who’s going to sniff at tens of millions of dollars a year? If it doesn’t work, the risk is minimal. So why not?
Hinckley’s point is that the internet enables Stern to have complete freedom, control, and ownership, which is ideal for a control freak like Stern.
Would I pay for Stern? I already do; he’s why I subscribed to Sirius. I’m just unhappy that I can’t get him on-demand on my iPod and iPhone.
Irony that I’m endorsing paying for content when I scoff at news organizations charging? No. I’ve long said that we do and will pay for unique performances – and Stern is unique. News is information, a commodity once known; that’s what makes it hard to charge for. Mere opinion is abundant. Performance has value, in music, in comedy, or even in news.
Who else would I pay? Jon Stewart could charge (though we’d get less time and he probably has higher cost). My list pretty much ends there. How about you?