CNet's Steve Guttenberg takes Howard Stern to task for his mouthiness on the David Letterman show this week. Stern, who earns $80 million a year from the underperforming Sirius XM, is, according to Guttenberg, fairly irrelevant. He writes:
"Stern loves to count the 20 million Sirius XM subscribers as listeners, and his rabid fan base believes him!
"Come on, that's a huge stretch, even for the former 'King of all Media.' Intentionally equating potential audience with actual listeners is classic Stern BS. The former King never made another movie or wrote another book. He's the King of Satellite Radio, and he works for a company that NEVER posted a profit during his reign (it continues to post losses every quarter). Sirius XM stock has been lingering around thirty-three cents a share for the past month or so.
"I'm just waiting for Stern to advise his buddy, Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin, to boost profitability by eliminating all of the other channels. Stern is the big draw, so why waste resources with all those other channels? I wonder how fast the 20 million number would plummet.
"Before the Sirius XM merger 'Daily News' writer David Hinckley reported that 'Arbitron has released its first-ever ratings for XM and Sirius, covering April-June 2007, and they show that in an average week, 1,225,000 listeners at some point heard Stern.' That's the TOTAL for the week, so at any given moment, Stern has maybe a few hundred thousand listeners. Anyway you look at it, that's a sorry ratings number for the former terrestrial radio god."
Stern vowed on Letterman that he would never again do terrestrial radio. That medium is, to be sure, a wasteland suffused with right wing talk, earnest NPR and those unfortunate music stations replaying the same songs ad nauseum. Still, it is interesting that Stern's "we've got to beat this Conan" rant started the deluge that led to Letterman's besting of his Tonight Show competitor. Stern deserves some credit for saying gutsy things before it became Hollywood chic. Stern certainly deserves some -- though, of course, not all -- of the credit for Letterman's fiery hot week. Howard Stern is still influential.
After his contract runs out in 2010, it is still unclear as to what Howard Stern will do next. But if Rush Limbaugh is any indication -- he has both influence and actual power based on his numbers -- Stern might want to rethink his stance on terrestrial radio. More here.