On January 9th, 2006, Howard Stern will make history by switching to Sirius satellite radio. Not only does he bring a fan base of millions with him, he also brings one of the filthiest-and funniest-mouths in radio history. So what can we expect from the new Howard Stern (besides more strippers)?
One thing's for sure: the move has made the new Howard richer than every CRACKED employee ever, combined-he was paid $500 million to leave terrestrial radio for satellite, and was recently handed an additional $220 million in Sirius stock for meeting agreed-upon targets for gaining new subscribers. In other words, he can now afford 55,598,455 consecutive months of Sirius service, which will cost his loyal fans $12.95 per month.
One recent survey found that almost a quarter of Stern's previous audience plan to follow him to Sirius, and his arrival has already helped bolster the company, which currently has only half of rival XM's 6 million subscribers. Sirius ended 2005 with 3.3 million subscribers, compared with just 1.1 million at the end of 2004, and recently announced that they expect to have more than 6 million subscribers by 2007, still less than half of Stern's former terrestrial listenership. If the legions of rabid fans that crowded Manhattan streets for Stern's final broadcast are any indicator, Sirius should easily reach that goal.
But the King of All Media didn't make the move just for the cash. For several years, Stern has been an unlikely crusader against censorship. One of that movement' high points came in October, 2004, when he called FCC Chairman Michael Powell on-air and-during a surprisingly intelligent debate on the issue-charged, "I think what you've been doing is dangerous to free speech"¦ I don't think just against me, I think things have gotten way out of control."
In the months leading up to the switch, Stern has made it abundantly clear that his move was primarily motivated by the FCC's relentless censorship, which resulted in his inability to discuss typical Stern topics-such as the "Blumpkin"-on-air.
During a recent interview on The Daily Show, Stern enlightened longtime friend Jon Stewart on his side of the debate:
"The FCC started fining me in 1987 and they took the life essence out of my show. My show was always outrageous, I could do whatever I wanted"¦ and that's what I think made a difference... And as they started to fine us, they beat us down every day. Topics were taken off the air. I got censored more and more. Dump buttons were hit every time I opened my mouth. And essentially, for me, it ruined the show. I didn't realize how much my spirit was taken away."
But Stern's antics leading up to his first satellite broadcast have indicated that his old spirit is back-and then some. His two Sirius channels (100 and 101) have already started to air "Tissue Time with Heidi Cortez," a show featuring call-in phone sex (and, surprisingly, very little discussion of actual tissues), as well as a segment weighing the bowel movements of overweight Wack Packer High Pitch Erik.
One of Stern's charms is that he has always pushed the envelope, breaking the rules of traditional radio and traditional good taste. But now that there are no rules left to break, will Howard Stern retain that charm? $12.95 will get you the answer.