HITS Daily Double
"He made a Faustian bargain. He got everything he wanted in terms of money and not being bothered by the FCC, but he lost the bulk of his audience."
——Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com


Front-Page Story in the L.A. Times Charts the Decline of the Onetime King of All Media
In a Page One L.A. Times story, staff writer Greg Braxton charts the diminishing influence of the self-described “Kin of All Media,” Howard Stern, whose audience is a fraction of what it was on terrestrial radio. He made the move to Sirius three years ago, signing a five-year deal worth hundreds of million of dollars.

“The shock jock's syndicated morning radio show once drew a national audience of 12 million,” notes Braxton, “but since jumping to satellite radio three years ago, his listeners have dwindled to a fraction of that. Where once Stern routinely commanded a parade of Hollywood's hottest stars—George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Julia Roberts—today publicists are left to tout studio appearances by the likes of Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers or Hulk Hogan.” Only two stars of summer movies—Seth Rogen of Pineapple Express and Verne Troyer of The Love Guru—agreed to be on the show.

For Stern, who’s now 54, it will be difficult to recapture what the writer refers to as “his past triumphs”: a hit movie, bestselling books and pay-per-view TV specials. In this heated election year, when commentary has been ratcheted up to the level of a jet engine, Stern's place in the national conversation has been reduced to a murmur, says Braxton.

"It's like Howard went from playing Madison Avenue to playing an upscale off-Broadway concert hall for a lot of money," said Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com, one of several media players interviewed by Braxton. "He made a Faustian bargain. He got everything he wanted in terms of money and not being bothered by the FCC, but he lost the bulk of his audience… There's a sense talking to the people who know him that he is aware that he's isolated. But he knew this would happen."

But not all industry watchers are ready to count Howard out just yet.

Said Jeff Pollack: "Howard was very brave to go into a relatively new media that's still evolving. It's the wave of the future, where people will find their favorite talent in a subscriber-based context."

Commented fellow talk-show host Tom Leykis: "I don't think you can count out Howard Stern. He took radio, which was akin to the used-car business, and made it a vital part of the entertainment business. Even if he does have a smaller audience in terms of his cumulative audience, that won't last forever. Terrestrial radio is hemorrhaging audience as it tries to find its place in the Digital Age, while satellite is up tremendously. Stern has defied the experts every time."

And if Stern decided to return to terrestrial radio when his Sirius deal is up in 2010, "Stations would be lining up to get him," said Talkers editor Mike Harrison. "He grabbed the brass ring and is now on sabbatical from a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with his life. But if he ever wanted to return, there'd be nothing but open arms."

One radio entity that would likely welcome Stern back is his former home, CBS Radio, which has seen its revenues decline by 10% or more since he left.