The clock is ticking on Howard Stern's second -- and perhaps final -- five-year contract with Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI). The final three live morning shows will take place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and even Stern warned this past Wednesday that this could be all that Sirius XM subscribers get before the show goes "in to the ether."
Sirius XM announced in October that, if and when there would be news on Stern's renewal, it would be announced on Stern's show. With that window closing in a few days, the smart money has to be on an announcement coming as early as Monday morning or as late as during Wednesday's annual Stern Christmas show.
Stern loves to cut it close. He didn't announce he was renewing his original deal five years ago until the second week of December.
There are plenty of good reasons for him to hang it up after a decade on Sirius XM, and a couple of decades on terrestrial radio before that. He has certainly earned his retirement, and he can always scale back the way that Jon Stewart is doing by leaving his show, but still staying in the spotlight through a deal with HBO to crank out short-form content from time to time.
There's even speculation that he will go digital after signing a deal with Lloyd Braun's Whalerock Industries to create a media hub. Digital distribution certainly opens the door for Stern to roll out a premium subscription-based platform; but will it ultimately be as lucrative as signing a new deal with Sirius XM?
Stern has been scaling back his commitments. His show only runs three days a week, with a lot of vacation breaks along the way. That wasn't the case during his initial five-year contract, and certainly not what was happening during his days on terrestrial radio.
It will be an interesting development at Sirius XM if he doesn't ink a new contract. It will save a lot of money on programming, but surely it will lose more than a few subscribers in the process. The best compromise would be a shorter deal with, perhaps, even more relaxed minimum-performance requirements.
Sirius XM would save some money. Stern would be able to develop his media hub. Everyone, but fans craving more Howard, would win. Either way, we shouldn't be in suspense for too much longer.