A few weeks ago I read an article that decried the satellite radio business as not living up to its promise. No, not the promise of commercial-free content because that’s not what they are promising (except with music – Sirius XM promises commercial-free music and boy do they deliver). What I am referring to is the theoretical promise of satellite radio.
That promise is a marketplace where YOU can pay for services that are to your liking and receive them on a limited interruption basis. For the purposes of this entry, I absolutely believe that Howard Stern is delivering on the promise of specific content tailored to a certain demographic. His channels are not only the most listened to on all of satellite radio (including the higher subscribed to XM), but they actually have a variety of topics and personalities that appeal to a broad audience (you’d be surprised). I’ve personally become a big fan of Bubba the Love Sponge since I first heard him on Howard 101, but that’s a different story.
However, Howard Stern and his crew are NOT delivering on the promise of limited interruptions for this PAY service. I understand that the talk channels do have some degree of commercial interruption and that’s fine by me. Gotta pay the bills, right? But the commercial breaks on Howard 100 and Howard 101 are – at this point – out of control. And I stress “at this point” because this was not always the way it was on these channels. When Howard started on Sirius XM, he had such limited interruptions that they amounted to some 20 minutes or so on his first show and even that was just a musical break or two.
But today, not only are we (the paying subscribers) subjected to 10 minutes or more of straight non-original, commercial content, but we are subjected to this crap on an increasing basis. I should take this opportunity, though, to point out that my definition of commercial and their definition of commercial is almost certainly different. I define anything that is not original, live content as a commercial. And please, don’t try to use 3rd grade logic with me about how by my limited definition then all of the replays are commercials. That’s BS and anyone with an education higher than grade school should understand that concept.
When Howard goes to commercial and you hear some lead out garbage phone call or sound clip, that doesn’t count as original, live content for me. When it flips to Howard 100 news for 5 or 6 minutes, that is also part of my definition of “commercial” – as is the downright insulting “lead-in” when they are back from commercial break. Why is the lead-in insulting? Well, they generally play some song during the lead-in. That’s what I want from the talk channel…a song. A fucking song?!?! Are you kidding me? I have dozens and dozens of commercial-free channels and one of the few talk channels that I listen to is going to play a fucking song? What bullshit.
On a related note, I can’t tell you how amazingly arrogant and aggravating it is to hear him say with such concern that he and the gang, “have GOT to take a commercial break!” Alright, we understand that Stern has contracts with advertisers and he must live up to his end of the contract. But we’re not dipshits! We’re not stupid! He has these contracts in place NOT because management is forcing him to have a ton of advertisers; rather he has those contracts in place because he’s trying to maximize his profit potential. Any business student understands that and they, like me, are probably fine with it. The problem is that Stern is not living up to the theoretical promise of satellite radio.
In any event, the next time you are on a long trip in the car take out your watch and time how long it takes from Howard to say, “We’ll be right back,” to him actually talking on the air again. It’ll be ten minutes at least (if you can stick with it that long). This is not the promise of satellite radio. In some respects, all Howard has managed to do on satellite radio is re-create the terrestrial radio template. It’s sad. Is it enough to have me cancel my Sirius subscription? Well, I don’t think so – unless, of course, they don’t bring back Bubba the Love Sponge after his contract expires!