Howard Stern is obnoxious.  He used to be charmingly so when he was on broadcast radio, but ever since he ruined his career by moving to satellite radio, his brand of humor has gone out of dire style — and the satellite radio industry is left quaking in his wake, poorer, broken, and wondering where it all went wrong — as Stern grew richer in their losses while also becoming less influential much more unpopular.

On December 16, 2005, I explained — Why Howard Stern Will Fail — and he certainly has failed and, it seems, he killed satellite radio in the process as the New York Times argued in print over the weekend:

DID you hear what Howard Stern said the other day? Neither did we. But we read about it on a blog. Mr. Stern, the ribald radio jock who once commanded attention with each off-color utterance and obscene joke, mused recently on the air that he was thinking of retiring when his contract expires in two years. “This is my swan song,” he said.

Back in the day when Mr. Stern was on free radio and had an audience of 12 million, that remark would have cascaded through the media universe. But by switching to satellite radio three years ago, Mr. Stern swapped cultural cachet for big money. Then — poof! — Mr. Stern all but disappeared. Even Jay Leno, during a recent interview with The New York Times about his decision to stay at NBC to host a prime-time show, cited Mr. Stern as an example of the dangers of obscurity.

“On radio, Howard to me was a populist. The truck driver, the average guy would listen in the cafe, the truck, the old car that’s 50 years old and still has an AM radio,” said Mr. Leno in the interview. “But I don’t hear him quoted anymore. People don’t say: ‘Hey, did you hear what Howard said today?’ ” Yet Mr. Stern’s retirement chatter did get one group talking: investors fretting over the fate of Sirius XM Radio, the satellite radio company that has been Mr. Stern’s home for the past three years.

Howard Stern will do the right thing by retiring.  He has already lost his humor and his drive for the divine.

Howard Stern appears to no longer care for the welfare of the satellite industry he helped to create — and then kill — and that’s the sign of a broken performer, the brand of a strained spirit, and the mark of a man who knows he took so much more than he was really worth.

Howard Stern, meet Bernie Madoff.


  1. Can anything save satellite? Did podcasting prove to be its undoing with its free quality?

  2. Gordon —
    I don’t think current satellite radio will be able to survive a Stern retirement or his re-upping for the same sort of ludicrous money. The industry will have to be completely broken down, made valueless, and then someone with lots of smarts will start it up again from nothing and make it totally free-of-charge. Right now it’s a monopoly with nothing to offer. No one wants to pay to listen to a radio with advertising. Cable TV gets away with it because of the wide content stream and the idea that seeing something is worth paying money for, while listening to the same thing isn’t perceived as having the same value.

  3. Fantastic link, Katha, thanks! Did you have to buy a special receiver to hear satellite radio?
    In the USA the whole reason behind satellite radio was “anything goes” — like cursing — and “excellent sound” and “zero commercials.” You had to pay around $15 a month for the full package of programming. That’s quite a lot of money for the product.
    The problem was you had to go out and buy a whole new radio and, because the industry had no listeners, they had to start doing some sneaky “commercialization” of some of the most popular day parts while still charging you a monthly fee.
    So you had great sound when you could get reception, but you had to keep upgrading your radios to get the best reception, and the satellite coverage was spotty in urban areas without a direct line-of-sight to the horizon. It was a disaster waiting to happen!

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