The clock may be ticking on Howard Stern, but Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) is making sure that its programming calendar will have at least one new magnetic icon come January.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is making Sirius XM her exclusive radio home come Jan. 3.
Stern and Schlessinger obviously don't appeal to the same audiences, so this won't necessarily be a consolation prize for Stern fans if his five-year deal isn't extended into 2011. However, both celebrities are polarizing figures that ran into resistance and controversy on traditional talk radio. Sirius XM is perfect for Stern. It's going to be perfect for Schlessinger.
Unlike Stern, Schlessinger will air her live show five times a week. The Dr. Laura show will be heard on both Sirius and XM, while Stern's show is exclusive to Sirius.
Offering the same content on both networks has been part of the cost-shaving strategy at Sirius XM since CEO Mel Karmazin began consolidating music channels and inking new deals with terrestrial personalities. Making Sirius and XM more alike will get in the way of pitching "best of" premium packages to subscribers, but it will also help alleviate confusion. It will also give negotiations more clout, since Sirius XM is reaching out to nearly 20 million subscribers through its two platforms.
Besides, the three-year freeze on basic subscription rates that Sirius XM agreed to in order to push the media giant's merger through expires next year. If Sirius XM wants to bump rates higher at some point next year, adding more talent across both networks is a sound approach.
Does this mean that Stern may sign a new deal in the coming weeks that will find him featured on both Sirius and XM? As the top draw for XM subscribers to pay up for "best of" access to Stern on Sirius, it doesn't seem likely. However, offering Stern access to 20 million subscribers may be just the ticket to keep away from returning to CBS (NYSE: CBS ) or breaking out on his own through Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) App Store.
As for Schlessinger, it will be interesting to see how the call-in nature of her show ports over to satellite radio. Sirius XM reaches out largely to working commuters, and not the stay-at-home types who call in to shows on commercial radio. Then again, if Martha Stewart Omnimedia's (NYSE: MSO ) home-crafts diva can make a splash on satellite radio, there's certainly plenty of room for Dr. Laura to offer advice on satellite radio.
Is landing Dr. Laura a sign that Sirius XM is moving away from Stern or simply a bonus for subscribers? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.