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After having struck expensive deals with such Hollywood personalities as Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Jamie Foxx, Sirius XM has been asking some of its top radio talent to take dramatic cuts in pay.
So said Bubba the Love Sponge, who for five years was the No. 2 talk-show host at Sirius XM until he quit a few days ago after he says management tried to cut his salary by 80%.
In December, CFO David Frear talked of “more favorable economic terms” as content deals came up for renewal, so it’s no secret that Sirius XM is trying to rein in costs. If a glimpse into Bubba’s salary negotiations is any indication, the cost-cutting measures could be brutal.
Even top talker Howard Stern hasn’t been immune, as analysts figure he re-upped at Sirius XM for about $80 million a year, down from a previous deal that had him earning $100 million annually.
But while Bubba attracts an audience about 38% the size of Stern’s (roughly 2 million compared to 750,000, according to insiders), it turns out his worth to Sirius XM was negligible in comparison. And he’s not alone, he said.
“They’ve asked everybody to take a pay cut,” he told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday. “With me, it was a take it or leave it offer. We decided to leave it.”
Bubba was earning $1 million annually at Sirius XM, and the company wanted to slash that to $200,000 beginning this year, he said.
Bubba blamed management’s penny-pinching on its obsession with striking rich deals with Hollywood, sports and music personalities who have name recognition but no discernible talent for radio. Sirius XM, for example, pays Winfrey about $18 million a year and Stewart roughly $7 million.
The company also has on its payroll Eminem, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan, skateboarder Tony Hawk, skier Bode Miller, Entourage actor Jerry Ferrara and a host of other prominent names.
“They paid an exorbitant amount for Hollywood people like Jamie Foxx with no f—ing radio talent, so radio people like me have suffered,” Bubba said. “A lot of good radio people aren’t getting an opportunity because of these Hollywood people.”
Sirius XM didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“Eminem doesn’t even have to show up and they pay him zillions of dollars. Where does Bubba the Love Sponge sign up for that!” he joked.
“I don’t have any business on a movie set, and actors don’t have any business behind a radio mike,” Bubba added. “You Hollywood f—s stay out of radio, and we’ll stay out of Hollywood.”
Bubba has for years had an unusual relationship with Sirius XM. He joined the same day as Stern and anchored the Howard 101 channel. A year later, he accepted a pay cut but was allowed to syndicate the show to a half-dozen traditional radio stations. That’s when he cleaned it up in order to pass muster with the FCC. A year after that, he began delivering four hours of exclusive and uncensored content to Sirius XM.
“Three times we were able to do a deal. This time we came to an impasse,” he said. “I didn’t think an 80% pay cut was fair market value for my services.”
Instead, Bubba has joined radioIO.com, making him the first major radio personality to ditch satellite in favor of the Internet. RadioIO is owned by ioWorld Media, a publicly traded company.
At RadioIO, Bubba will host a free show plus another show that will become part of the service’s subscription package. Plus, members of his on-air radio crew will get to program their own music channels based on the genres they like.
“They gave me a fairly lucrative base salary, plus incentives like stock and commission on subscribers. It’s far better than Sirius ever was,” he said.
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