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Stern cancels E! ticket

Shock jock bids farewell to cabler

Howard Stern has officially parted ways with E!, his show’s TV home of 11 years.

Cabler has pinkslipped all 15 staffers on “The Howard Stern Show,” reassigned a pair on the West Coast and announced that skein’s final original episode will tape July 1 for airing July 8.

Insiders say E! has dropped out of the bidding to keep the show on the air, leaving men’s cabler Spike TV poised to pick up the daily radio broadcast once it moves to Sirius Satellite Radio (Daily Variety, May 18).

Stern’s contract with E! expires at the end of the month, but E! had reportedly remained interested in keeping the franchise alive, competing against interest from Spike and perhaps HBO. Stern has ended talks with the entertainment cabler but is still pursuing an agreement with Spike.

Alluding to the split with E! during his radio show Tuesday, Stern indicated a plan was in place moving forward but did not provide specifics.

Timing of the show’s departure is ironic for E!, as cabler has just scored some of its highest ratings of the recent past with “Party at the Palms,” a “Wild On!”-style skein that takes place entirely at the Las Vegas resort. Show, which collected 2.2 million total viewers in its premiere and repeat showing, would have made a fitting companion series.

DM add: E!’s eagerness to extend the relationship with Stern has been tempered by the fact that his show’s risque content has limited its appeal among advertisers, meaning the net isn’t reaping financial benefits commensurate with the ratings. In addition, the content could be even racier after the radio show shifts to Sirius, where Stern won’t have to fret about FCC fines.

Nevertheless, for E!, the loss of “Stern” could be severe. Series pulls in some of the cabler’s best numbers — year-to-date, it averages 793,000 total viewers, 494,000 in adults 18-49. And E! can’t afford to lose any of its strong performers: For the first quarter, E! dropped double digits in key adult 18-49 and 18-34 demos year-to-year and averaged 279,000 overall viewers in total day, 386,000 in primetime.

Hot to handle

Viacom-owned Spike would make an appropriate home for Stern but is said to be debating how to handle the content of Stern’s restriction-free satellite show. With his move to pay radio — likely a sign of even raunchier, more controversial content ahead — E! parent Comcast hadn’t aggressively been trying to keep Stern at the cabler, which already has to edit his show to fit standards.

Money is another issue. E! produced 250 original episodes of the skein, resulting in a costly show. And though Stern will be making $500 million via his five-year deal with Sirius, he’s holding out for top-dollar fees for the TV version.

DM added: A Spike deal would also extend at least some relationship between Stern and Viacom, since the conglom’s Infinity Broadcasting is behind his current radio show.

Reps for Stern could not be reached, and Spike declined comment.

In place of new “Stern” segs, E! will schedule repeats from its vast “Stern” library of more than 2,000 episodes. While original episodes provided powerhouse ratings for the cabler, repeats have performed just as well if not better. According to Nielsen Media Research, since last June, the 11 p.m. premiere episodes average a 0.76 household rating while the 11:30 p.m. repeats average a 0.78.

“Howard Stern is one of the most influential and successful brands in the history of broadcasting, and the value of his contributions to E! Entertainment Television is incalculable,” E! prexy-CEO Ted Harbert said in a statement. “As ‘The Howard Stern Show’ evolves into a premium service, it is time for our latenight programming to evolve as well.”

Stern has an existing relationship with Spike, having set up the 13-episode animated series “Howard Stern: The High School Years” for next year (Daily Variety, Aug. 18).

“The Howard Stern Show” could help Spike more quickly rebound from the loss of World Wrestling Entertainment — the cabler’s biggest ratings draw — and balance out the female-leaning skew of its “CSI” repeats.

DM added: Stern also has some history with Harbert. Both are graduates of Boston U. and attended the school at the same time.

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