SiriusXM in talks to renew Howard Stern contract amid pandemic

Satellite broadcaster SiriusXM said it’s in talks to retain its biggest star Howard Stern as the business weathers the fallout from the coronavirus.

SiriusXM Chief Executive Jim Meyer said Thursday on a second-quarter earnings call that the company has reengaged Stern in talks to re-up his contract, following a lull caused by the pandemic.

Stern’s five-year contact lapses at the end of 2020, and as a result, there has been some buzz about whether the shock jock will retire, re-up with Sirius, or contemplate moving his show to a rival like Spotify, whose podcasting unit has been on a buying spree.

“Howard is very happy with what he’s doing. It matters when Howard is happier,” Meyer said. “His show is better, and he’s more relaxed. I’ve been clear: I want Howard Stern to work at SiriusXM for as long as Howard Stern wants to work.”

The CEO said he was optimistic about keeping Stern at Sirius, adding: “I know what Howard wants. And we’re trying to figure out a way to make all those things work together. I don’t want to be overly optimistic here, but I want Howard here… We’ll keep working and we’ll get there, I hope. At the end of the day, it will come down to what Howard wants to do.”

In the event that Stern steps away from his live shows, SiriusXM will retain the rights to his library for seven years and will keep airing them. “That’s not what I want. I want Howard on air,” Meyer insisted.

Turning to his company’s results, Meyer said the business is improving after a tough slog related to the fallout from the pandemic.

During the three months ended June 30, the company, controlled by John Malone’s Liberty Media, said it added 264,000 self-pay subscribers at SiriusXM but lost 768,000 promotional subscribers.

“Paid promotional subscribers decreased due to declines in shipments from automakers offering paid trial subscriptions with the purchase or lease of a vehicle,” the company said.

Sirius ended the quarter with 30.3 million self-pay and 34.3 million total users, down 516,000.

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