If Howard Stern bolts from Sirius, here's how much the stock could tank

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read

A legion of Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI) subscribers are likely praying the self-imposed ‘King of All Media’ Howard Stern inks a new contract soon.

Sirius shareholders best pray right along with subs — because without the headline-making Stern’s top rated morning program, the company’s stock could go right down one of the toilets the shock jock has used on his show for comedy bits for years. That’s at least the message from the sell-side number crunchers at Credit Suisse.

“While years of consumer surveys have helped inform a belief that only a minority of SiriusXM subscribers listen to the show, on 5/15/19 Mr. Stern gave a television interview on Good Morning America where he disclosed that 60% of subscribers listen to him (no qualifiers were given in terms of listening frequency). If true, we believe this reflects more risk to SIRI were Mr. Stern to depart than many investors believe; however, it does not address the key question of how many subscribers would cancel service,” discussed Credit Suisse analyst Brian Russo in a new note to clients on Wednesday.

Radio personality Howard Stern responds to a question at an on-air news conference during his debut show on Sirius Satellite Radio, in New York, Monday Jan. 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Radio personality Howard Stern responds to a question at an on-air news conference during his debut show on Sirius Satellite Radio, in New York, Monday Jan. 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Russo continued, “While we acknowledge having little evidence to answer this question (our experience tells us that consumers have trouble predicting their own future behavior when surveyed), we assume 15% of Stern listeners would cancel, implying a potential subscriber loss of 2.7m (60% x 30.3m self-pay subs x 15%). For perspective, this loss is similar to the 3.0m subs we expected SIRI to lose in our COVID downside scenario in March when shares bottomed at $4.50.”

Sirius shares are currently trading at $5.84. Russo’s math suggests Sirius shares could plunge 23% should Stern exit the platform and take his listeners elsewhere (or just retire, as Stern frequently hints at on his show).

And whether he will do so remains a major wildcard.

Sirius shares shot up 5% in early afternoon trading Wednesday on a Bloomberg report that Stern was nearing a new $120 million, five-year deal with the company. Stern’s contract is slated to end later this year. On his show today, Stern said “there’s not anything close” to a new deal with Sirius.

Stern made Sirius a household name when he signed a five-year deal in 2004 for a reported $500 million. He re-signed for another five years at a reported $80 million in 2010. In 2015, Stern re-upped for five years for an undisclosed amount. That deal included a 12-year agreement for Stern’s extensive audio and video library — which some say will prevent him from jumping to Sirius-rival Spotify this time around.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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