A Sirius Holdup for Stern

Fans anxious to view footage from Howard Stern’s uncensored broadcasts on Sirius Satellite Radio are going to have wait a little while longer.

In Demand will launch its Howard Stern On Demand subscription service Nov. 18 for $9.99 per month, featuring archival programming from the shock jock’s syndicated Infinity Broadcasting Corp. radio show. But those interested in seeing the self-proclaimed King of All Media’s shenanigans on his new Sirius gig, which begins on Jan. 2, will have to cool their heels for another two months, until the new video content is made available in March, according to In Demand president Rob Jacobson.

He said In Demand is delaying the televised encores of Stern’s Sirius shows for two months because it didn’t want to risk consumer confusion by going out simultaneously with two subscription packages — in addition to equipment fees, subscribers will have to pay $12.99 per month in order to access Stern’s show as part of Sirius’s lineup. The satellite-radio broadcaster also offers National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League radio coverage, plus an array of music and entertainment channels.

“Requiring people to pay for Howard’s radio show broadcast and asking people to now pay for the televised version of Howard are new things for consumers,” Jacobson said. “In order to make sure we communicate the message from a formerly free environment to one where people need to pay, we needed a little separation so we wouldn’t create confusion in the marketplace.”

In Demand, though, will offer the first two months of Stern’s Sirius radio shows once it gains the rights to the satellite package, as well as extant library fare. At that point, subscribers will be able to view Stern’s daily Sirius shows some 36 hours after they premiere on the satellite-radio platform.

On April 1, the network will increase the price of the package to $13.99 to reflect the new programming, Jacobson said.

In Demand has deals with owners Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable, as well as Adelphia Communications Corp. to air a package of more than 40 uncut and uncensored programs, gleaned from Stern’s 11-year TV library — much of which has aired in an edited format on E! Entertainment Television. The interim subscription VOD package will retail at a suggested price of $9.99.

Additionally, In Demand will also offer two or three individual shows per month for $7.95 apiece, both during the phase-in stage and after it begins presenting the Sirius fare.

Jacobson said the network expects to reach distribution deals with the rest of the industry by the time In Demand begins airing Stern’s daily Sirius shows in March.

Jacobson would not project subscription buys for the package, but said the network would not go out of business if Howard On Demand isn’t successful.

“Howard Stern is one of the most well-known personalities on the planet, so to say that this was just another program offering for In Demand would be a little naive,” he said. “But this is not a make-or-break scenario for In Demand, although I can’t see how this won’t be successful.”

In the past, Sirius officials said they would need to sell around 1 million subscriptions to offset the cost of Stern’s five-year, $500 million contract.

Jacobson also said he’s not concerned about backlash from conservative groups concerning the raunchy content of Stern’s shows.

“Customers have to make an active decision to watch Howard Stern and then have to pay for it,” he said. “Given those two significant hurdles, we’re not concerned notwithstanding some of his programming.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.