12 to Watch: Howard Stern

Jan 30, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Nobody self-aggrandizes like Howard Stern, who calls himself the “King of All Media” and spins his every corporate dispute as an apocalyptic showdown.

But Mr. Stern’s relaunch of his 11-year-old television show in a subscription video-on-demand format to roughly coincide with his move to satellite radio is an event that nearly lives up to the hype.

Heralded as the first major original series to launch exclusively in the format, “Howard Stern on Demand” will test VOD’s limits-in terms of popularity, revenue and content.

To get viewers to subscribe prior to the official March launch, iN Demand Networks has put up hundreds of hours of uncensored “greatest hits” content from Mr. Stern’s years on E!, with an introductory monthly rate of $9.95 (which will rise to $13.99 in April).

The new program, a televised version of Mr. Stern’s Sirius radio show that debuted Jan. 9, has been shooting since late last year. Cameras have followed Mr. Stern during his press tour, rehearsals, staff meetings and his last day on terrestrial radio. The behind-the-scenes footage, as well as programs from all his Sirius shows, will be made available March 16. Following that, new shows will be uploaded the day after being shot.

Unlike the half-hour E! series, the Sirius versions will be about 50 minutes long and uncensored.

“We’re doing tons of shows and shoots that are very reality-based that are focused on Howard,” said Doug Goodstein, executive producer of “Howard Stern on Demand.” “The floodgates are going to open to the complete world of Howard.”

For industry observers, the question is how many subscribers Mr. Stern will pull into the iN Demand orbit.

Rob Jacobson, CEO of iN Demand, declined to say how many have signed up for “Stern” thus far. “If history is any guide-his ratings on Infinity, his ratings on E!-we are confident this is going to be hugely successful,” Mr. Jacobson said.

Industry observers have also fretted that the content of the show might pose an issue with cable operators. Mr. Stern’s defenders dismiss such concerns, noting that the Sirius radio program has been relatively tame.

“We’re going to monitor what’s on the show. The expectation is this is an opportunity for Howard to have a lot of creative freedom,” Mr. Jacobson said. “But the concerns about whether this will be adult programming, I think, have been largely laid to rest.”

For the time being, at least. Though VOD has plenty of bona fide adult programming, Mr. Stern has a talent for finding unique ways to push the boundaries of his formats-and to create trouble for his bosses.

At A Glance

Title: VOD talk show host

How long in current position: Launches March 16

Year of birth: Jan. 12, 1954

Place of birth: Jackson Heights, N.Y.

What to watch for: Whether Mr. Stern gathers enough subscribers to prompt other shows to try launching in a strictly video-on-demand format. Also, potential content controversy and battles with his bosses at iN Demand.

Who knew? Mr. Stern has a brown belt in Shotokan karate.