Sirius biz: Shockjock inks a sat deal
NEW YORK — Howard Stern has signed a three-year deal with In Demand to carry the TV version of his daily show on Sirius satellite radio.Auds will get the raunchy Stern instead of the sanitized version, which is still available on E! even though his contract wasn’t renewed. Basic cabler is still running reruns. In Demand, the dominant U.S. distributor of pay-per-view movies and events, will offer the Stern show to cable networks via subscription video-on-demand. SVOD is a platform that requires people to subscribe to a digital cable box and in this case pay $10 extra each month to get the standalone channel that carries Stern. The parties declined to reveal the amount of money In Demand will pay Stern for exclusive TV rights to his show, but the deal is complicated because it includes an unspecified number of pay-per-view specials produced and hosted by Stern. His New Year’s Eve PPV event in December 1993 racked up 35 million buys to become one of the biggest nonsports revenue generators in the history of pay-per-view. In Demand will distribute these one-shots for a PPV fee separate from the radio show subscription, although customers may get the specials at no extra cost if they buy a one-year subscription to the SVOD service. Rob Jacobson, president-CEO of In Demand Networks, said the company’s plan — beginning later this year — is to tape each day’s four-hour radio show featuring Stern and his cast of regulars and edit it down to between 60 and 90 minutes for delivery to SVOD customers the next day. “We’ll have a lot of flexibility and latitude in figuring out the exact length of each show,” Jacobson said. “Our goal is to create a tightly edited, fast-moving show.” One reason Stern chose In Demand as the TV partner, said his agent-manager Don Buchwald, is that Stern won’t face “the censorship and government interference that continue on his terrestrial radio show” distributed by Infinity Broadcasting. That censorship, which has cost Stern $1.75 million in government fines, drove a wedge between Infinity and the shockjock. Instead of renewing his contract with Infinity, which expires at the end of the year, Stern jumped to Sirius, which agreed to pony up $100 million per year for five years, beginning in January. E! Entertainment TV, which carries a half-hour nightly version of his Infinity show, has to be much more discreet because it takes advertising. “E!” covers any nudity with pixilation; foul language disappears through electronically lowered volume. Last September, Stern cut a deal with Internet VOD company Movielink to offer uncensored clips on Stern’s Web site from the E! cablecast featuring the soft-core nudity that E! eliminated. That deal expires with the end of the E! contract. Jacobson said as many as 20 million In Demand subscribers will be able to buy Stern on SVOD when it kicks off in January. If only a small percentage of that number ponies up for the show, In Demand and Stern will be rolling in dough. “Howard will be the first stand-alone personality in SVOD,” Jacobson said, adding he’s confident the shockjock’s fans will seek him out and swell the number of SVOD subscribers. Buchwald said Stern was attracted to In Demand because “it’s a company with significant substance. It’s owned by three major cable operators: Comcast, Time Warner and Cox.” All three of those operators are carving out SVOD dial positions for the Stern show, and In Demand has begun negotiating with other cable operators. For Stern junkies, Jacobson said the SVOD window will keep previous Stern shows on the platform for a couple of weeks for call-up at the flick of a button on the remote.
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