Now that the shock of Howard Stern's announcement about his move to Sirius Satellite Radio has worn off, the analysts and pundits are starting to weigh in with their thoughts and questions. One of the most prevalent is whether or not Infinity will allow Stern to spend the next 15 months on its airwaves promoting his future Sirius gig.
"I'm not going to do that," said Stern on his show this morning as he was playing news reports that covered his Sirius announcement. He was responding to a question of how long Infinity would let him stay on air and call them "crap" while praising Sirius. "Clear Channel is crap, Infinity rules," continued Stern. "I would never say that about Infinity. Infinity is not going to go bankrupt from me leaving. They are going to make a lot of money in the next fifteen months. When I leave, they'll still make money."
Still, the question was valid, just not posed correctly and WXRK/New York GM Tom Chiusano already asked Howard to "cool it" with the Sirius talk. Daily listeners know that Stern shows Infinity every ounce of respect they deserve in return for giving him the freedom to develop his career. According to an informal FMQB.com poll, roughly 60% of respondents think Infinity should let Stern finish out his fifteen months left on his contract. Whether or not Infinity will let him remains to be seen.
Stern's ratings and revenue stream, while certainly being taken off Infinity's books in fifteen months, are going to be hard for the radio company to give up early. Consider what the ratings boon is going to be for his affiliates as the end of Stern's show nears. And much like NBC brought in big bucks for the final episodes of Seinfeld, Frasier and Friends, Infinity will have opportunity for premium ad prices those final weeks of The Howard Stern Show.
If Infinity were to prematurely end its relationship with Stern, it would need replacement morning shows for its O&O Stern stations. The replacement question obviously is poignant whether a premature end comes or not, and will eventually effect all Stern affiliates. The initial outlook is that the 45 Stern show affiliates are going to look like the Chicago Bulls the year after Michael Jordan left, though there is optimism within Infinity. "He's tough to replace," admitted Infinity COO/President Joel Hollander. "But there's no singular talent that is irreplaceable. Les Moonves has given us the ammunition to find the right talent."
Stern himself brought up another point today, indirectly, when he was talking about the move. "Bottom line, I'm an entertainer," he said. "I don't want to be fighting all the time. I want to make people laugh. I think about the material that I can't air on 'Best Of' anymore and it drives me crazy." And what of those Best Of archives? Infinity is holding Opie & Anthony's archives from them. Will they do the same to Stern? Or will they work out a deal to let him have access to it? Stern said he hopes Viacom will be his "future business partner" and that there might be "a chance for us to have a relationship in the future," but wouldn't elaborate further.
Other questions -- Will Stern's channel be made available through Sirius' deal with Dish Network? Will Howard get his request and be on the currently open and available Sirius Channel 69? What will the new studio design look like? Will Artie Lange get his kitchen and Robin Quivers get her French boudoir to hang out in during the show? Will Sirius feel any backlash from this announcement and have subscribers cancel due to Stern?