Skip to comments.The Next Stern? Maybe There Isn't One
Posted on 10/22/2005 6:10:44 AM PDT by Momaw Nadon
NEW YORK - They fade in and out like stations along the radio dial, some with more frequency than others: the reputed replacements for departing shock jock Howard Stern. There's David Lee Roth and Adam Carolla, Jon Stewart and Geraldo Rivera, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Bonaduce.
One or more could fill Stern's vacant morning drive-time seat in January, when the radio icon surrenders his syndicated kingdom for Sirius Satellite Radio. But it's time to face the truth, for better or worse: terrestrial radio may never see another Howard Stern.
"He is irreplaceable," said Michael Harrison, founder of the trade publication Talkers magazine. "Stern is one of a kind, among the very, very small handful of people that were THE broadcasters of the 20th century and carrying into the 21st."
Love him or hate him, Stern remains an extraordinary industry figure. He boasts a national audience larger than even his ego, advertising revenues bigger than both, a three-decade career that expanded from broadcasting into television and publishing for the self-proclaimed King of All Media.
He's the First Amendment poster boy, warring with the Federal Communication Commission, and the biggest star on satellite before his first Sirius show even airs, with a five-year, $500 million deal.
Most of all, he's a tough act to follow.
Stern's syndicated show hit No. 1 in the ratings in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Los Angeles an unprecedented achievement. In the most recent Arbitron ratings, Stern had New York's WXRK-FM at No. 1 in the mornings; in afternoon drive, the station slipped into a tie for 17th.
For the 27 Infinity Broadcasting stations that carry Stern, "he leaves a big hole," said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio. "The challenges are steep."
Stern stations were expected to take a major financial hit, with estimates of about $100 million in lost revenue for Infinity. There's the promise of lost audience, too; a July study of Stern fans showed just 5 percent of his estimated 12 million listeners plan to stick with his ex-stations once Howard abdicates.
"This turns a lot of listeners loose," said Taylor. "The competition has been looking forward to this for a long time."
A top radio executive, speaking recently with Billboard Radio Monitor editor in chief Scott McKenzie, said taking over for Stern was a no-win proposition.
"His feeling was you want to be the guy replacing the guy who replaced Howard," McKenzie said. "Because no matter who the first guy is, Howard's audience is going to hate him."
Earlier this year, Infinity chief Joel Hollander said his stations will use five or six different Stern substitutes next year. "He's not replaceable" by a single person, Hollander said at a gathering of advertising executives last month.
Hollander made calls to "The Daily Show" host Stewart, comedian Goldberg and reporter Rivera about the gig, although he's yet to announce any replacements.
The 51-year-old Stern has said that Roth will take over in New York, while Carolla will replace him in Los Angeles. In other markets, Stern sees the future as diminished.
"I think people of lesser talent will become stars," Stern said in one of his many on-air rants about post-Howard terrestrial radio.
Despite his reputation as purveyor of sleaze, strippers and sex acts, Stern was also able to lure A-list guests like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stevie Wonder, along with hit musical acts like Weezer or the Foo Fighters. The ability of his successors to do the same is a major question mark.
And then there's the FCC crackdown on indecency. Since the FCC has already stopped Stern from doing the Stern show, how can his replacements fill the void?
In some ways, McKenzie said, that could turn into a positive.
"To have a Howard clone or a `Howard Light' just won't cut it," McKenzie said. "The audience is going to figure that out quickly."
Meanwhile, Stern's terrestrial radio career grows inexorably shorter. On the Sirius Web site, a clock counts down the months, days, minutes and seconds until Stern's contract expires at 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1.
At the same time, the clock is ticking on finding radio's next Howard Stern if there's one out there.
"Why not?" asked McKenzie. "We see it happen with television stars just emerge out of nowhere and stay there. It would be terrific for terrestrial radio to find a replacement for Howard that works."
On the Net:
They said the same thing when The Knack broke up.
He's nothing. There will be no void.
I would miss him like I would a toothache.
Trash is trash, whatever the venue. There will always be more trash to fill the bin.
What has Sirius got? About perhaps the same total listernership as one New York station? And what're the demos? Most of the people with Sirius bought them standard in the family Ford Excursions and Expedition SUVs....not the typical rabid hate-bush Howard crowd.
I'll really miss his rant's about anal sex and bowel movements. NOT! What is his audiences average age, 12?
I have a pile of dog crap that was deposited by someone elses mutt in my yard that would be a great replacement for Stern.
Men Without Hats! I hear there's a much-anticipated reunion tour planned.
a) Why would anyone want *another* Howard Stern??? Listening to the guy is like watching someone sit on a toilet.
b) How about they replace his airtime with someone that has talent?
Hey, don't forget Air Supply and Survivor (the schlock band was that did the "Rocky" theme songs).
"Men Without Hats! I hear there's a much-anticipated reunion tour planned."
I'm gunning for "Colour Me Badd" or "Dino".
All music is a footnote to Eben Ozen.
There are plenty of strong Bush supporters that enjoy listening to Howard. They may not agree with everything he says, but, heck, I don't even agree with everything Rush Limbaugh says . . . doesn't mean I don't listen to him pretty often.
well, they could attempt something original like playing music and reporting news
"Here I sit all broken-hearted . . . "
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