“Outside of retirement or re-signing with Sirius, there really aren’t a lot of options for Howard Stern,” Rick Aristotle Munarriz writes for The Motley Fool. “He can’t go back to terrestrial radio. Satellite radio has grown in stature over the past five years, while conventional radio has either been stagnant or regressed. There may be some shining stars in the industry, but they are small players. The giants that would be logical suitors — companies including Clear Channel and CBS — are unlikely to compete financially with Sirius XM. They also wouldn’t be able to offer Stern the regulatory freedom he sought in taking a chance with Sirius five years ago.”
“We live in a wired world, so Stern can always attempt to strike out on his own. If Stern can sway a million listeners to pay $10 a month for a rich, Web-served experience, he will top his current contract,” Munarriz writes. “The problem, of course, is that Stern risks plenty. He gambled on satellite radio in its infancy and won, but Internet radio as a premium service is virgin soil.”
“He can partner with a Web darling that will give him greater programming flexibility than even Sirius XM. Amazon.com’s Audible may be an interesting fit, but the only logical outlet would be Apple,” Munarriz writes. “Yes, Apple.”
“The iEmpire is shutting down the Lala streaming service it acquired just five months ago. Why would Apple buy a company to squash it? The best bet is that Apple will be incorporating Lala’s streaming technology into iTunes this summer,” Munarriz writes. “This could actually work for a juggernaut like Stern, and between Apple and Zune daddy Microsoft you have two of the richest companies on the planet.”
“A bidding war between CBS Radio and Sirius XM may very well be bumped by a bidding war between Apple and Microsoft,” Munarriz writes. “Is this likely? No. Is it possible? Absolutely.”
“However, my gut feeling is that Stern returns to Sirius XM on a scaled-back basis. Sirius XM doesn’t want to spend as much as it used to on Stern, and he’s unlikely to want to work as hard as he did when he first arrived,” Munarriz writes. “It’s the one logical ending to this saga; even if analysts, shareholders, and Stern fans won’t let Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin rest until they hear the ultimate answer on Stern’s Sirius show.”
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