Looks like Howard Stern is not a Sirius team player - Macenstein

Looks like Howard Stern is not a Sirius team player

Sirius XM released their highly anticipated and long overdue iPhone application yesterday, and the big news was that Howard Stern’s Channels (channels 100 and 101) would NOT be available on the iPhone. There was no official statement from either Sirius or Apple, but Bloomberg quoted a Sirius customer service rep (who odds are knew nothing) as saying Stern wouldn’t be offered because of the “mature programming” on the show. This of course is a ridiculous answer, as the iPhone’s new parental controls and ratings would take care of any content issues, as would the fact that although the app is free, you still need to subscribe to Sirius’ programming to access the content. So why isn’t Stern being offered on the iPhone? Well, odds are, it’s Stern himself that’s the problem.

I happen to be a huge Howard Stern fan. I am one of those people who subscribes to Sirius exclusively for him. My Sirius radio is set up in my basement, set to channel 100, and it never changes. Every morning my Mac Pro records Stern’s show using Audio HiJack from 5:55 AM to 12 noon (don’t want to miss the wrap up show), breaks it into 2 hour, bookmarkable segments, and then syncs them to my iPhone in iTunes. I then listen to Stern (on a 1 day delay or so) all day at work. So, yes, I am a die hard Stern fan, having heard every single minute of every show for about 12 years (I used to record his terrestrial New York show before his move to Sirius). And as anyone who has ever visited the Stern Fan Network website knows, there is nothing a huge Howard Stern fan loves to do more than bash Howard, so let’s do that. (By the way, while I haven’t logged on in years, my SFN screenname is “Dana Plato’s Ghost”, an obscure reference to Diff’rent Stroke’s actress Dana Plato’s suicide following a tough Stern interview, if you ever want to say “hi”).

It’s all about money

So, how can I be sure that Howard is the reason behind no Stern on the iPhone? Well, let’s look at the logic behind a Stern ban. Obviously Stern on the iPhone sells more iPhones, so Apple wouldn’t be opposed to that. Of course, so would hardcore porn on the iPhone, and Apple has not exactly embraced that. However, the Stern program is not nearly as pornographic as most non-listeners imagine, and obviously, being radio, it is not VISUAL pornography. There is no language said on the show that is not already available in various podcasts and in a slew of R-rated movie Apple sells and rents on iTunes. It’s adult programming to be sure, but nothing you can’t find in content already on iTunes. So I feel it is safe to say Apple is not blocking Stern.

So, would Sirius, want to ban Stern from the iPhone? The answer here is also “no”. Conventional wisdom is that although you need to buy a physical satellite radio to listen to Sirius XM, the company does not make its money on hardware sales. They make it via subscriptions. Offering Sirius on the iPhone is basically a “free” way for Sirius instantly increase the number of people who own Sirius radios (iPhones) and pay monthly streaming fees by 20 million or so. Now yes, Sirius usually charges a $6 a month fee for each radio and only $3 extra for streaming, but by charging their streaming fee for the iPhone, they will make up the difference given they will not be losing any money on hardware costs and support.

Above: I figured a picture of Stern’s wife Beth would keep you reading longer than another Howard picture.

So, if Apple wouldn’t want to block Stern, and Sirius wouldn’t want to block Stern, then that leaves Stern himself. Why would Howard Stern care whether he were on the iPhone or not? Well, like all things with Howard, it comes down to money. While I personally see no difference between Sirius allowing Stern to stream his channels on computers (which they do) versus on mobile devices, odds are Stern’s contract either specifically forbids it, or only specifically mentions computers. In his mind (of his agent’s), the mobile platform is a whole new ball game, and should be open to renegotiation. I obviously have no insider information here, but as a long time listener, I think I do have some insight into Stern’s mindset.

First, the developers of Starplayr 2, the desktop Mac and PC Sirius streaming app which I occasionally use, once called in to Stern and said they were working on an iPhone streaming app that they hoped to get approved soon. Stern sounded excited at the idea, but also wondered how it was they were allowed to do so. He is notoriously defensive of his content, fighting a constant (and losing battle) against sites like YouTube who allow users to post clips from his shows without his consent. He is very much about keeping his content exclusive and being compensated for it. And guess what? I don’t think he’s wrong.

I don’t care whether or not her actually got the rumored $500 million pay day for signing with Sirius (although if any of that was in stock options, we may need to pass the collection plate for him), I think the man deserves to be paid as much as he can for whatever anyone will pay him to do. Just as professional athletes, actors, and top executives are allowed to be paid ridiculous sums of money, I would not begrudge Stern the chance to be paid even more for streaming his show, if indeed money is the reason he is holding out. Aside from being jealous, I have no problem with people being overpaid. However, what this move points out is that Stern is NOT the Sirius team player that he portrays himself to be.

Stern is not a team player

Aside from talking about Sirius Satellite radio once every two years to David Letterman’s 3 million viewers, Stern does very little to promote the benefits of Sirius to the outside world. Oh sure, as a listener he constantly talks about how great it is, but he’s preaching to the choir. His listeners all have Sirius. Where are all the Sirius commercials featuring Stern? Where are his appearances on talk shows? He constantly says he would do Conan or Jimmy Kimmel if he had something to promote… well, guess what? He DOES. It’s something called Sirius radio.

If Stern were TRULY interested in helping Sirius’ bottom line, he would allow his show to stream via the iPhone app. This instant boom in streaming subscriptions is basically free money that Sirius has to leave on the table because without Stern, there is nothing that a streaming Sirius app offers iPhone users that they do not already get through hundreds of other FREE streaming radio apps like Slacker, AOL, Pandora, Last fm, etc.. We already have an 80’s channel, a Elvis channel, a country channel, etc. In fact, we have 60 of each.

I don’t actually care

Personally, I don’t care about Stern streaming on the iPhone. My current recording scheme outlined above is how I would prefer to listen to Stern even if he did stream his show, and I would prefer to listen to the show in its entirety rather than to listen to it in pieces here or there while out and about. But I know there are thousands of listeners out there who WOULD, and who would pay to do so. And so does Stern apparently. At a time when Sirius is hurting, if Stern really cared about driving subscriptions and generating money for the company, he would bring his show to the iPhone, as well as other mobile platforms. But he doesn’t. It’s all about the money with Stern, and while as a fan I would like to see him be bigger than that, I can’t argue that Stern’s pay-for-play attitude has worked well for him so far.

Maybe he’ll use mobile streaming as a bargaining chip in his next contract negotiation. Stern’s current contract ends in December of 2010, and of course he says he’s retiring at that point. As a long-time listener, I have heard him definitively say he was quitting at the end of his contract FOUR times now, so I have a feeling it may be another year and a half before we hear Stern on our iPhones. Of course, we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out for sure. Stern conveniently does not do a Friday show, so the Thursday release means no one has been able to call in and bitch at him about this. If it turns out he says he’d love to do it but it’s all Apple or Sirius holding back the deal, then I apologize. But somehow I doubt it.

17 Responses to “Looks like Howard Stern is not a Sirius team player”
  1. crsrc says:

    considering the other omissions to the app are live sporting events and there is no question it is MLB, NFL and Nascar that do not want them on there, you are likely correct in your hunch.

  2. Danny Murtaugh says:

    Big fan of Stern. Both my 19 year old son and I. The ONLY reason I have Sirius is to listen to Stern. Well that’s how it started. I really like Sirius. I also have gigabytes of music on my iPhone, so Sirius music is not my main reason to PAY for Sirius.

    So with a family plan of THREE iPhones, we’ve been waiting for the Sirius iPhone App. And it arrived. And it was downloaded. And Sirius is contacted to PAY for Sirius streaming.


    No Stern.

    I tell my two son’s. And the quote is?

    “So what’s the point”?


    So Sirius app is deleted. It’s gone. Never more. And I save 9 bucks a month – NICE.

    The whole music.movie/entertainment is INSANE. They do not want their content listened too or viewed. Just stolen at best. They have no idea that teens or older NEVER turn on the TV. NEVER listen to radio. Well yes in the cars equipped with DAD paid SIrius. BUt they listen to Stern. But they only hear the short time they commute. Then NOTHING>


    They so wanted to hear Stern. As I.

    In my case? $9 per month gone that would be paid to Sirius LOL

    Steal music and movies? Most do because they WANT the content which the owners refuse to sell to them.

    Sell Sirius stock now. And oh yea Howard? Your options are really worthless now.

    I agree with the writer of this column, Stern wants to be paid. Which is fine. SIRIUS refused to pay him. Obviously.

    Buy. s I boot up the iPod/iPhone. No app needed.

  3. italiano40 says:

    i actually love stern and i wish this sirius app had him, but i use bittorrent to get the show and fstream on my iphone to connect and listen to the streams of the show, while having a sirius radio in my car

  4. Zendriver says:

    Another key point that completely scuttles the “mature content” theory – Playboy Radio is available through the SiriusXM app. Though I TOTALLY listen to the show for the articles, I must say that the content – particularly prime time and late night – is way more “adult” than anything that has ever been on Stern.

  5. Dave-O says:

    I stopped reading at the second picture…

  6. Nathan says:

    “…but he’s preaching to the quire.”


  7. slappy says:

    I’m still stuck at the second pic. Seriously I think you have a very good point and probably nailed the problem here.

  8. Whoops, thanks Nathan. Can I blame that on the Percocet?
    – The Doc

  9. Anton says:

    Howard Stern is an idiot. You don’t have to stream his content. You can just hire a homeless guy to squat over the side of your face and take a dump directly in your ear. It would be cheaper, and the quality of content would be higher.

  10. malcanta says:

    Hi Doc, I’m a fan as well and I do think your theory is plausible. However that does not explain why Howard is not offered to XM users. He’s talked about this before and it doesn’t seem like his contract or $ is holding this back. Sirius is giving XM users content but charging extra for “premium” content like H100, this is pretty lame.

    As far as Howard not being a team player by not doing extra things, well he built up Sirius by himself. Do you remember how far behind XM they were and Howard single handedly killed XM, does he need to do more than that? The guy is a recluse, so he’s not going out of his way to do more. I wish he did, just like I wish Artie would write skits or do things on the side rather than just show up for his hours (if that) and give more priority to book signings and standup rather than Howard’s show.

    I think Howard is pretty clueless when it comes to new media. He rips into youtube but at the same time he uses ripped clips in bits and funny phone calls, he is behind the times, but as a broadcaster there is no one better. Hey now!

  11. lucion says:

    Wow, Dana Plato is dead? I am so out of the loop.

    As an XM subscriber I was mildly interested in the new app. Until I realized they wanted more money on top of the (already increasing) monthly subscription price. It’s a neat novelty, but with all the other radio apps out there it isn’t for me.

  12. Sam says:

    Dana Plato’s Ghost? You’re both a douche bag and an idiot. How could you think that’s funny?

    Here’s one less reader, happy to part ways with the mimobot’s, junky layout, and poor taste that accompanies Macenstein.

  13. @Sam,

    Sorry to see you go. But, I’d like to see YOU try writing 4000+ posts consisting solely of your opinions and see if YOU don’t offend someone at some point. You never know what will set a particular person off, or cross a line for someone where 99% of the world shrugs it off.

    – The Doc

  14. Sam says:

    “Win a Free Mimobot” is NOT an opinion. Its not even a fact. Its a statement, one that you make about once a week.

    Dana Plato was a recovering addict who appeared on Howard Stern’s show in the midst of recovery, only to be bombarded by abuse from callous listeners such as yourself and reduced to tears. The next day she committed suicide. How anyone could make light of an event like that is astonishing, yet you have taken that a step further by confessing that you parade around with a screen name of “Dana Plato’s Ghost.”

    You chalk up your choice of this screen name as an opinion? You think 99% of the world would shrug that off? That’s akin to a priest telling you that his decision to be a pedophile was simply an opinion.

    I can deal with the fact that you listen to Howard Stern and, as a daily reader for over a year, I can tell you that not once have I come close to taking offense. People’s opinions do not disturb, it is their moral fabric that causes the greatest concern. “Dana Plato’s Ghost” renders yours very dubious indeed.

  15. @Sam,

    not to harp on this, but I chose the screenname because I was pissed about her death, and blamed Stern, in a small way. I realize she had her problems, and more than likely was on the edge anyway, but when I DID appear on the Stern Fan Network, I usually criticized Stern., and used the name to remind other listeners that Plato’s death was not something we should forget, and many listeners should feel guilty over.

    But whatever.
    I am increasingly LESS sad to see you go.
    My site is not for overly sensitive people who read too much into things.
    – The Doc

  16. malcanta says:

    Doc, I must give you props. You called it. On Stern this morning it sure sounded like his agent was holding the deal back and it’s possible that details will be worked out so he will be in the app. Dumb Artie thought they were fighting “the man”, in this case Apple Corp, man, he’s so dense sometimes.

  17. NiceMac says:

    Stern is still streamable on StarPlayr 3 Preview from NiceMac. Works with Mac OS X Leopard (only) at the moment. XM and Sirius are support through separate apps: StarPlayr and StarPlayrXM. Donationware. When I don’t have a desktop or Sat. Radio to listen to Howard, I use a Leopard enabled NetBook (Dell Mini 9) and tether it to my iPhone. Not the best solution, but works for me.

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