Could Howard Stern become satellite radio's version of The Sopranos? That's the speculation, as Stern has repeatedly alluded to his possible future with the new medium, which would free him from FCC regulations and the dreaded "dump" button. Stern reportedly toured the Sirius complex in Manhattan recently. In addition to a plethora of commercial-free music channels, satcasters offer many Talk offerings, but much of the Talk programming is exclusive to satellite radio. Stern's show would change that, making satellite radio a must-have option for many listeners.
While Stern's presence would undoubtedly drive up subscriber numbers, the question remains whether signing him would make financial sense for the satcasters. Both operators are shouldering significant debt as a result of high start up costs, and Stern certainly doesn't come cheap. And raising subscription rates would seem to be out of the question in the near term. The possibility exists that Stern's show could be offered as a higher priced option, such as the Playboy channel that XM charges an extra $2.99 per month for, but most financial analysts feel that both operators will find it difficult to raise fees beyond their current levels. Sirius charges $12.99 per month (slightly less if paid on an annual basis), while $9.99 per month gets you XM.