Spots are going for $5,000 to $6,000, with live reads, the term for on-air talent pitching the product, maxing out at $10,000. When Howard Stern's show was broadcast on terrestrial radio stations, he commanded $30,000 for a live read.
It's not a huge surprise spots are cheaper on Sirius, given Sirius' 4.7 million subscribers as of midyear. But exactly how much smaller is his Sirius audience than the crowd of 7 million listeners he drew on terrestrial? No one knows, because no one knows how many are listening to his satellite program, which also, of course, makes a cost-per-thousand comparison impossible. And it seems even the all-powerful Mr. Stern isn't above the accountability required to play in today's media world.
Better audience reporting needed
Sirius doesn't offer advertisers data on who is listening to its individual channels or shows, whereas terrestrial radio is reported by Arbitron. And regardless of how you'd rate terrestrial-radio measurement, most buyers say that for Sirius to step up its advertising rates, it needs to invest in better audience reporting.
"The problem ... with recommending Sirius is they don't give out real measurable data," said Robert Davidman, CEO of Earthquake Media. "There's a certain emotional piece [to buying media] but the rest boils down to how many are listening. And just because you have 4 million subscribers doesn't mean they're all listening to Stern."
Sirius rival XM does offer some audience data culled from a custom Arbitron report, although buyers note it doesn't offer detailed average-quarter-hour ratings pegged to specific demos. Scott Greenstein, president-entertainment and sports at Sirius, tells a different story. He said Sirius has hired a third-party research company to get audience data on "certain things our advertisers would need." He wouldn't disclose the name of the research company but said the third-party data show 58% of subscribers listen to Mr. Stern during the week.
A quick numbers crunch shows the 58% stat translates into 5 million Stern listeners: Take the 4.7 million Sirius subscribers, Mr. Greenstein said, and consider that about two people listen per subscription -- that's 9.4 million listeners, which multiplied by 58% is about 5 million people. "Given the state of terrestrial, there are a lot of shows and hosts that would like to have that [many listeners]," he said.
Of course, there's been speculation about if and how Mr. Stern's sphere of influence has diminished as he talks to a smaller, subscription-based audience. Sirius sales executives, before his show had even started, were approaching media buyers with rates of $20,000 for a live read. Sirius bought the rights to Mr. Stern's show in a five-year, $550 million deal.
Last week Tom Taylor wrote in Inside Radio a rumor of Stern's returning to terrestrial radio. Sirius denied the reports, and a Sirius spokesman said: "Howard Stern is thriving on Sirius Satellite Radio."
"He had to know going in that his universe would be smaller," said Rich Russo, director-broadcast, JL Media, who said that although Mr. Stern is "not the pop-cultural force he once was" in radio, he's still up there with Guglielmo Marconi and Alan Freed, making him "one of the three most important men in history of radio -- and one of them invented it."