Contract renewal talks between SiriusXM and Howard Stern have been ongoing since last year, but it’s still not clear if — or when — the satcaster will have firm news for investors about the iconic broadcaster’s future at the company.
SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer was asked about Stern’s future on Wednesday during the executive’s appearance at Credit Suisse’s 22nd Annual Virtual Communications Conference. He said he’s hoping to pick up the pace of the negotiations to keep Stern where he is.
“I want to be clear: I want Howard Stern to work at SiriusXM for as long as Howard Stern wants to work,” Meyer said. “I can’t be any clearer with that. It’s a free country. Howard Stern’s gonna go work wherever Howard Stern wants to work. But I know one thing: A big chunk that’s important to Howard is Howard wants to work somewhere where he’s happy and he wants to work somewhere where he’s valued, and he wants to work somewhere where he trusts systems and people he’s around. He has that at Sirius, and I think it works great for him.”
Stern, who first joined the company in 2006, signed a five-year deal in late 2015. That deal concludes at the end of this year. According to a 2018 article in Forbes, Stern earns an estimated $90 million per year.
Meyer also said he thinks sales of new automobiles so far in June offer reasons for optimism. As Inside Radio reported earlier this month, eight in ten cars that are driven off dealer lots are equipped with satellite radio — so when car sales take a beating, so does SiriusXM’s opportunity to land new customers via trial subscriptions.
While June is hardly shaping up to be anything resembling a record month, it still promises to be a vast improvement over April (down 47%) and May (down 29%). Sales of used cars also declined during those months.
“The difficulty was the rental car business and the fleet business was down so much,” he explained, “which is why you need to be careful with just using the SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate). For our business, in particular, we’re much more interested in the retail piece of it.”
One thing Meyer says he’s watching: the effect of shuttered automotive manufacturing plants, which began in mid-March. Most factories have now resumed operations, but many are still not yet working to capacity.
“One of the drivers that we have to keep our eye on is that while retail sales are better than we expected, obviously we did miss anywhere between six and eight weeks of production,” Meyer said. “The good news is, all of the manufacturers are up and running. The better news is, it appears that they’ve been able to get up and running safely… So does that inventory get back up to a comfortable level to feed a comfortable sales level for September through December? I believe it will.”