With the clock ticking on his current contract, Howard Stern has not yet committed to a next step.
What he is willing to commit to is his desire to make the same jaw-dropping sum –$500 million over five years– that he has made in years’ past. Stern devoted a portion of his broadcast to blast Sirius/XM Chief Financial Officer David Frear for speaking publicly about his negotiations, suggesting that the shock jock would likely have to take a pay cut to remain with the company at Monday’s UBS Media Conference.
“I am not taking a f—ing paycut,” Stern told his listeners Tuesday. “Why would I have to take a pay-cut? …Who is this guy to say this in public?”
He continued with a similarly impassioned rant about his value to the company, claiming he is more important than earlier target Oprah. “Oprah’s out getting the Kennedy Center honor and I’ve got the CFO announcing to Wall Street that I have to take a pay cut,” he said. “Never mind getting respect from the industry, I want respect from the company.”
That company, according to Frear, is “hopeful” that Stern will remain on its platform, but recognizes the powerful personality could chose a different path. While having Stern stay at a lower fee is ideal for Sirius XM and its shareholders, some argue that it might not actually matter whether he decides to stay at his current $100 million a year salary or walk away and take 1 million subscribers with him.
Among the options gaining momentum of late is a rumored exclusive three-year, $600 million deal to take his show to Apple’s iTunes. How realistic such a step would be has the media collectively scratching its head. Stern commented on the rumors on Monday’s show, claiming that he has been talking to a lot of companies and has been tight-lipped about his next gig because he didn’t know what it will be. As for the even more impressive salary such a deal would offer: “Three years, $600 million?” he said. “That’s better than Derek Jeter!”
While Apple has ample funds to invest in talent like Stern should the company choose to, he would seem a peculiar fit with Steve Jobs’ conservative, family man persona. What’s more, would the self-proclaimed “King of all Media” really want to ratchet back his content (notably the expletive-laced rants and porn star interviews) as he once struggled to do to comply with FCC decency rules while on terrestrial radio? And would he be willing to give up his daily drive-time audience business for a model devoted to episodic downloads?
Whatever he ultimately decides, Stern is arguably giving his current employer the biggest gift of all: publicity. The heightened interest and constant chatter is just the kind of attention Sirius XM needs, particularly if Stern isn’t part of its next act.