Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin still confident Howard Stern will sign new deal
Sirius XM Chief Executive Mel Karmazin said he remains optimistic about signing a new deal to keep Howard Stern on the satellite radio service, but warned that should the shock jock bolt, some subscribers might leave with him.
Speaking at the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Karmazin praised Stern, with whom he's worked closely for decades.
"He's been a fabulous partner ... he has enabled companies to make a lot of money," Karmazin said. Stern's current contract expires at the end of the year, and he has, as he always does when one of his deals is nearing expiration, been dropping hints on his show that it may be time to walk away. Karmazin said he doesn't want to negotiate in public with Stern, but he noted that Sirius XM has successfully renewed several high-profile contracts recently, including those with Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, and that he is "very confident" about getting Stern to stick around.
Stern sent shock waves through the radio industry in 2005 when left CBS Radio for Sirius. Karmazin, who has worked with Stern dating back to the 1980s at Infinity Radio and later at CBS, came to the satellite radio company soon after Stern made the leap.
One of the reasons Stern left over-the-air radio for the satellite service, besides a huge pay day, was freedom from Federal Communications Commission regulations. Stern's radio show was often a target of the regulatory agency, which fined radio stations millions of dollars in connection with Stern's racy program. Stern has indicated that he does not have a desire to return to terrestrial radio. He could conceivably try to go solo and launch his own digital platform.
As for Sirius XM, which has almost 20 million subscribers, Karmazin downplayed the idea that there would be an exodus of subscribers should Stern leave.
"They may have come for Howard, they may love Howard ... but they listen to other channels," he said.
As for what Stern is looking for in a new deal, Karmazin would not divulge details, saying only that Stern is "compensated very fairly." When Stern joined Sirius in 2005, his contract was valued at $500 million, but that also included the costs of producing the show.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Howard Stern. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press