As the clock counted down to the end of Howard Stern’s five-year deal with satellite radio broadcaster SiriusXM, speculation about what he might do rose to feverish levels. Would he sign a mega-deal with Apple or Pandora? Or would he go it alone and try to build his own media empire, like Glenn Beck or former ESPN star Bill Simmons?
In the end, Stern decided to do none of those things, although he likely had some compelling offers. The self-proclaimed King of All Media announced on Tuesday that he will stay with SiriusXM (SIRI) and will continue to host his show for another five years as part of the 12-year agreement.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it’s likely there was a significant amount of back and forth over how much Stern will get for his services. The last time he signed with the satellite company in 2010 he got an estimated $80 million a year, and the new deal gives SiriusXM the right to use Stern’s archives for seven years after the end of his contract.
SiriusXM has also agreed to work with Stern to develop a video broadcast as well, something the radio host may have gotten to like as a judge on the weekly TV show America’s Got Talent.
Could Stern have left SiriusXM and set up his own broadcasting empire? Undoubtedly. His millions of fans would likely have followed him anywhere, even if he chose to set up his own website and do a podcast. But it seems clear that he opted for the safety and comfort of working with a company that takes care of him, and that clearly needs him.
And SiriusXM definitely needs Stern. In a very real sense, Sirius likely wouldn’t even exist—or at least wouldn’t have the audience that it does—if it wasn’t for him. When he joined the company in 2004 it was still struggling against competitor XM, but with his help it dominated the rush for subscribers and wound up absorbing XM in 2008.
According to some recent research, about 12% of SiriusXM users listen to Stern, which means he is probably worth as much as $250 million to the satellite broadcaster. They would probably have done almost anything to keep him, and Stern undoubtedly knows that.
As the radio host said in announcing the new deal on his show, his relationship with SiriusXM is a little like a marriage: “I am living a dream here on satellite radio and [Sirius CEO] Jim Meyer is my life partner and the baby we are about to have is our new streaming video app.” And the security of that relationship looks to have won out over a desire to be his own boss.