Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) has a problem, but thankfully it has nearly four years to fix it.
Howard Stern isn’t likely to stick around for a third run on Sirius when his current contract runs out in 2015.
The polarizing radio show host revealed during yesterday’s show that he has a 99.9% chance of leaving radio after his second five-year deal runs out.
He’s not merely negotiating in public. He’s not trying to play hardball with Sirius XM over unpaid bonuses he claims that he’s entitled to as a result of the merger between Sirius and XM.
Stern relayed a recent incident where he couldn’t hear a camera’s beeps that everyone else around him was able to hear. He fears that he may be in the early stages of losing some of his hearing, something that may have been evident when he was actually defending Steve Tyler’s mangled singing of the The Star-Spangled Banner at the Patriots game over the weekend.
Does America’s Got Talent know what it’s getting itself into?
Then again, the real question here is if Sirius XM knows what it will have to be getting itself into.
If Stern leaves as expected there will be a huge programming void at the satellite radio giant. Think about it. It’s been more than six years since Stern migrated from terrestrial radio, and Sirius XM hasn’t come even close to finding a better magnet.
Prolific celebrity deals with Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell, and Martha Stewart Living’s (NYSE: MSO ) namesake domestic guru have helped, but none appear to have had the kind of impact of Stern’s arrival. This week’s news of two department store titans and Stewart’s company battling it out in court isn’t going give her any more focus on satellite radio.
So where does Sirius XM go in 2016 — if not sooner if Stern’s hearing becomes a real issue?
It can’t just be about commercial-free music. Pandora’s (NYSE: P ) growing even faster, and the custom-tailored music service will typically win out in orchestrating the better personalized play list.
It can’t just be about sports. Several years ago — when Sirius hooked up with the NFL and XM with Major League Baseball — the appeal there was for relocated fans away from their favorite teams since local terrestrial radio was there for the hometown faves. However, now that a growing number of local sports stations stream freely on smartphones, access to in-depth team coverage is easy.
It has to be about original programming, and here’s where Sirius XM needs to get rolling. It has the money to woo the top stars of terrestrial. Programming and content costs have actually declined over the past year, and naturally will drop considerably when Stern’s run is done.
However, Sirius XM may need several popular personalities on board providing original content to fill the void that Stern’s absence will create.
Sirius XM will find a way, but it’s never too early to start looking.