One of the reasons I hadn’t bought a satellite radio yet had to do with the conflict between Major League Baseball on XM and NFL on Sirius (and, of course, my friend Rick on Sirius).
With the proposal of a merger, that seemed to no longer be a concern. After all, as Mel Karmazin said in Congressional testimony prices would not be raised and that listeners would benefit enormously by getting the best programming from both companies.
Wow – win, win!
This morning, in a count-your-fingers moment, the deal didn’t look as sweet. Here’s what the NY Times had to say, quoting FCC Chairman Kevin Martin:
Howard Stern announced today that he’d be going to Sirius, the satellite delivered radio service, a year from January. Whether Viacom will find it in their best interest to keep him on the air for that year plus period is certainly being debated now.
I had speculated earlier that Stern would be part of the post-Janet Jackson fallout. Mel Karmazin is no longer at Viacom, and he was Stern’s biggest supporter. I was probably wrong in connecting this to Janet Jackson… though maybe not 100%.
The whole Super Bowl, wardrobe malfunction affair has driven radio station operators, like Clear Channel, to reassess. Maybe Howard is feeling reigned in a little.
I see two interesting outcomes from this move. As little as I personally appreciate Howard Stern, he is a powerful force with his audience. He will give credibility to Sirius – get them additional subscribers. Their stock (not particularly pricey to begin with) is up almost 15% as I write this.
The second effect will be felt by people who don’t listen to Stern and don’t subscribe to satellite radio. Just as more adult or racy content on HBO, Showtime and even MTV, led the broadcast networks to spice up their programming to compete, a good showing by Stern might force the same shift on radio.
It would be ironic if Stern’s move off-air ends up moving on-air toward his type of content.
This is a story that isn’t completely played out by any means.
After the Super Bowl, and the attendant fallout over what’s appropriate on-the-air, I predicted Howard Stern would be gone from Viacom (his home base). Of course that hasn’t happened.
Today, Mel Karmazin, Stern’s biggest backer, resigned his position at Viacom.
There’s nothing in any of what I’ve read that connect these two events – and they probably aren’t connected. But, I’ll renew my prediction.
Without Karmazin, there is no one with power at Viacom who is in Stern’s corner (or at least no one with the track record of doing so in the past). I can’t imagine Viacom’s management won’t worry about the downside of Stern’s freewheeling show.
Of course, I’ve been wrong on this subject before.
After the Janet/Justin Super Bowl incident, I predicted there would be repercussions at MTV – even though MTV is not regulated by the FCC. It didn’t take long before some of the more explicit videos they play were pushed out of prime time.
Videos are no longer a big thing on MTV, so this move isn’t as significant as it might seem. Still, a change is a change. It is certainly a reaction to an upwelling of public sentiment.
Now, in light of Howard Stern’s banishment by Clear Channel, I predict he’ll soon be gone from Viacom¹ as well.
Let me preface my explanation by saying I have no political ax to grind. What will be will be. It’s fun to make these predictions in the blog because I really can’t hide from them later. Just remember – this is only my read on the situation.
Here’s the set-up. Tuesday, Howard Stern had the ‘other’ participant in the now infamous Paris Hilton video, on-the-air. They talked, and took some phone calls. One listener asked some questions which were crude and racist, to say the least.
Wednesday evening, Matt Drudge had a short transcript of the conversation on his website. I’m glad I got to read it. I’m just as glad it’s no longer there.
I would hope Stern has the ability to monitor and censor inappropriate material before it hits air. In this case, he did not.
On Wednesday, after hearing an aircheck, Clear Channel Communications took action and issued this press release:
Though America’s largest broadcasting company, Clear Channel only runs Stern on a handful of stations. Viacom is the actual syndicator of the show, and also runs it in many markets nationwide.
In this case, the tail (Clear Channel) will wag the dog (Viacom)!
Viacom is between a rock and a hard place because of statements earlier in the week. From Reuters:
So, what can they do? Considering the Congressional hearings post-Super Bowl and Karmazin’s own public pledge, how can they stand behind Stern… especially in light of what Clear Channel’s CEO said?
They can’t. End of story. Hang out the “Help Wanted” sign. Stern is done.
¹ – Stern is syndicated by Infinity Broadcasting. Infinity, in turn, is owned by Viacom.