Questioning Howard Stern's "Major Deal"
May 10, 2006

During one of his recent tirades about XM Satellite Radio's Opie & AnthonyHoward Stern says he was offered a "major deal" to go back on terrestrial radio and without any substantiating evidence, other than Stern's word, the mainstream press and many trades jumped the gun with reports that he is contemplating a comeback to terrestrial radio.

In case you haven't noticed, there is a P.R. war going on between multiple parties -- Stern vs. terrestrial radio, terrestrial radio vs. satellite radio, Stern vs. CBS Radio, and Stern vs. Opie & Anthony. In this battle, Stern, a master of grabbing headlines, managed to put himself in the news once again. The trades were a little smarter in their reporting, but like lemmings, the mainstream press rushed to report Stern was coming back to terrestrial radio after the New York Post took Stern's "major deal" comment and suggested an offer was likely made by Citadel Broadcasting. The Post noted the connection between Stern and Citadel by pointing out that Citadel CEO Farid Suleman used to work with Stern at Infinity Broadcasting.

What these reports failed to connect was that Stern is not a fan of Suleman and constantly lambastes the Citadel exec and derides his ethnicity. Also, Citadel was one of the first companies to start messing with Stern's terrestrial show after his announcement that he would be taking his program to Sirius. In December 2004, Citadel stations initially started cutting off Stern's programming at 10 a.m. before dropping Stern all together shortly afterwards. And on top of that, Suleman cut a deal with Opie & Anthony and used portions of their XM Satellite Radio program on WAQX/Syracuse after dumping Stern entirely.

Meanwhile, Suleman is a fan of Opie & Anthony. He tried to hire the duo after they were dumped by CBS Radio and before they ended up at XM and he called in to their program just yesterday (5/9) to discuss a possible deal with the duo to bring them to some Citadel outlets, one rumored to be in Providence. So unless Suleman's ties to Stern and Mel Karmazin are stronger than his pride, the idea of this deal being offered by Citadel makes no sense.

So that begs the question, what other company is in position to make this deal?

Clear Channel certainly has the station power, but the move would be a P.R. disaster for the company that was first to start the move to eliminate Howard Stern from terrestrial radio's airwaves.

CBS Radio is in position, but obviously that isn't happening given the state of Stern's relationship with company's executives and the recent O&A deal. Plus, according to what Stern has said on his program, CBS Radio chairman/CEO Joel Hollander reportedly asked Stern for the type of deal he eventually cut with Opie & Anthony, but Stern turned it down.

Beyond Citadel, Clear Channel and CBS Radio, few of the other radio corporations could come close to giving Stern the type of coverage that Opie & Anthony got in their deal. Emmis could, but that would mean cannibalizing their efforts with Mancow. Greater Media, Entercom, Cox, Beasley, Bonneville and Cumulus also all fall short.

After repeatedly saying he has done 10 years of subpar radio, why would Stern even for one moment contemplate putting an inferior show together from his Sirius program to air on the medium that he despises so much? Simple answer - he isn't and this morning (5/10) he was quick to put an end to the speculation, frantically trying to get someone from the press on the phone to put out a statement that he was not coming back to terrestrial radio.

"I'm very flattered terrestrial radio can't let go of me. But I would throw up if I had to go back. I'm never going back," was the message he finally got out. "The story is I wouldn't do it (terrestrial radio) for any reason. Not for money. I left because I couldn't stand the censorship. I couldn't stand the Federal Communications Commission. I've never been happier. We're flying high and doing great."

Back at the Opie & Anthony program, after hearing the statement, the suggestion went out that Stern was forced by Karmazin to make it since Sirius' stock took a hit yesterday.  And the duo have also suggested that the idea of a "major deal" being made to Stern is an outright lie and challenged him to name the company that made it. Actually, they challenged him to name the "companies," as Stern stated this morning that he has had three offers to return to terrestrial radio. And now that he has stated "I wouldn't do it (terrestrial radio) for any reason," what would be the harm in saying which three companies made the offer? After all, Stern would get more coverage out of it since the press would scramble to verify and report which three companies made the offer.

Whether or not the offers were made, Stern has vehemently said he is not returning to terrestrial radio, but Opie & Anthony have and they are relishing the perceived effect it has had on Stern. He says it doesn't bother him, but he certainly has been mentioning them much more than he used to.  And whether he likes it or not, XM has more subscribers, meaning Opie & Anthony talk to more people daily and via CBS Radio they can also now speak to the listeners that have failed to follow him to Sirius. As for Stern, he can only preach to the converted -- or manipulate the press into helping him reach non-subscribers of satellite radio.

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