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Video will embrace the radio star this summer as 64-year-old Howard Stern will become a multimedia play for SiriusXM.
In plans outlined during a Jan. ?30 earnings call, CEO Jim Meyer cautioned that the satellite radio provider was “not going into the Netflix business” but will be “wading into the video pool” before July. The company will draw on 30 years of Stern interviews — dating back to his earlier broadcast years — as a blueprint to launch video of other talk hosts, comedians and musicians.
The audio service has channels dedicated to Garth Brooks, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Pitbull, Jamie Foxx, NASCAR, the NFL and more. SiriusXM presumably has thousands of hours of thus-far unused video in its library, and its new initiative could also have it delving into live-streaming (could sports be on the horizon?).
The video product will be part of SiriusXM All Access, which at $20.99 a month is about a $5 premium over the regular service. “Management isn’t planning to launch the video product as a separate package but expects it to drive higher take rates of the All Access package,” says Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Jayant.
SiriusXM knows it has a treasure trove of valuable video. An example: It recorded from one of its studios Sam Smith covering Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” and the video posted to YouTube three years ago has been viewed nearly 20 million times. The company declined to comment for this report, and it hasn’t disclosed issues regarding the rights it has to repurpose its audio content.
SiriusXM isn’t the only subscription audio-based company to dabble in video. Spotify began streaming videos from partners including Comedy Central and ESPN in early 2016, paving the way for the music service to greenlight a batch of original shortform videos, but that effort struggled to gain traction. Apple, of course, is launching a video service to complement Apple Music.
SiriusXM has nearly 33 million U.S. subscribers. Stern, who hasn’t had a headlining video presence since pay channel Howard TV shuttered in late 2013, is signed through 2020. He attracts an estimated 9 million listeners weekly, though SiriusXM does not disclose audience ratings for specific channels, shows or talent.
Despite describing himself as “the king of all media,” Stern’s success away from radio has been spotty. His 1997 film Private Parts was considered a hit, but some pay-per-view TV specials appealed only to his most dedicated fans. Meyer, though, is convinced that Stern can be a video star in the digital era.
“I know our Howard customers absolutely are going to want Howard video,” the CEO said during his most recent earnings call with Wall Street. “I don’t even need to do the research. Howard customers want one thing: more Howard.”
Says Steve Birenberg, founder of Northlake Capital Management: “If they establish video within the current customer bases — and attract some new customers with it — eventually it could be a stand-alone product.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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