Is Howard Stern worth the $120 million a year SiriusXM is reportedly preparing to offer him to stick around after his current five-year deal expires at the end of December? Billboard analyst Glenn Peoples crunched the numbers to calculate what Stern is actually worth to the satellite broadcaster and how many subscribers it might shed should he not renew. “Stern is arguably worth a small fortune,” he writes.
Bloomberg reported recently that the personality who put satellite radio on the map after decades of record ratings and notoriety at broadcast radio was close to signing a new deal. Sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg Stern’s pay would jump to $120 million a year.
Based on that salary, the satellite broadcaster would need to retain 1.07 million subscribers or 3.1% of its current 34.3 million subscribers in order to recoup what would be a $600 million investment over five years in its marquee morning man. Stern’s breakeven point – where SiriusXM would recoup its money – “depends on a handful of factors such as the annual cost, the length of the contract, and SiriusXM's average revenue per user (ARPU) growth rate, churn rate and gross margin,” Peoples writes. “While Stern may not impact prices, his value increases the more he helps SiriusXM retain subscribers (reduce churn).”
Stern’s previous five-year deals with the satcaster have paid him about $80 million and $100 million.
Exactly how many listeners subscribe exclusively for Stern (or may cancel their subscriptions if he were to leave) is difficult to calculate. Credit Suisse analyst Brian Russo estimates 15% of Stern's listeners, or roughly 2.7 million subscribers, would bolt if he doesn’t return in January, as reported by Billboard. Those 2.7 million subscribers have a lifetime value of $1.4 billion, based on SiriusXM's current metrics, far exceeding the value of Stern's contract. B. Riley analyst Zach Silver told Billboard that "only a low-single-digit percentage of respondents subscribe to SiriusXM" solely because of him.
There are also intangibles when it comes to calculating Stern’s value to the satcaster. In addition to Stern, play-by-play of every NFL game and other major sports, scores of commercial-free music channels, an expanding menu of artist channels and an array of news, talk, and sports programming all factor into the satcaster’s value proposition, even if the average subscriber only tunes to a handful of channels.
"Customers pay for what they think they listen to, not necessarily entirely [for] what they do listen to. They pay for what their perceived value is for the service,” CEO Jim Meyer said during the company’s July 30 earnings call.