I just want to listen to Howard Stern.

by Mike · 1 comment

I just want to listen to Howard Stern. I still remember my first experience with Howard. I was 13 years old and I was out in a glorified row boat with 2 cousins fishing for Stripers in Long Island sound, when one of them said we had to go in and watch some TV show. I just wanted to fish, but he was talking about how the show has girls with huge breasts advertising Snapple iced tea. Now my head was spinning. I just didn’t understand how these women had anything to do with Snapple, or this guy, but I didn’t have much say in the matter since my cousins were older than me and we were already heading home. That night I watched my first episode of what most Stern fans refer to as “The Channel 9 show,” and I still remember the exact episode. It was the bowling alley episode where grandpa Munster was up against Young MC.

Fast forward quite a few years, and I am still an enormous Stern fan. All through high school, college, and my professional life I have listened to Howard. I was there through so many announcements of Howard extending his contract. And then the Jackie contract negotiations that soon followed. While I have grown to love him, I wasn’t hoping Artie Lange would get to sit in the Jackie chair. At the time I really had a weak spot for Craig Gass, with his “Al Pacino’s baby” character and his Gene Simmons impressions. Now, I think Artie is as great a contributor to the show as anyone ever has been.

So what’s my point? I wish it was easier to listen to Howard. I would listen to Howard around the clock if I could. And I don’t just mean if he were to broadcast live shows 24 hours a day. I’d be happy to listen to the current offering that Sirius XM radio broadcasts on Howard 100, but that’s where the problem really starts to take form. I’ve had a rocky history with Sirius, mostly due to the radios themselves than anything else. But recently, another disappointment manifested itself with the release of the Sirius XM iPhone app. Let’s go through the history of things to show just how much of a fan I am to put up with these problems, and still be willing to offer more money to Sirius. When Howard made the move to Sirius in January 2006, I wasn’t making much money and couldn’t afford a radio or the subscription, but a friend sent me recordings of the first week. I still listen to those recordings fairly often, as I think they are some of the best shows Howard and the team has ever done. From the opening fart noises, the revelations, and of course, what would the first week on Sirius be without the Howard Stern show announcer, George Takei.

The Problem with Sirius = The radios

When my wife and I started dating, she came along with a Sirius X-act radio that she bought as soon as she found out Howard was going to Sirius. She also told me that it never worked. When she brought it over to my apartment, she was right about it. No matter how I positioned the antenna out the window and facing the “southern sky”, we could never get reception for more than a few seconds at a time. Customer support wasn’t much help either, just telling us to try it in another window. We moved to another place, tried it there, and the same result. Then eventually when we moved to California and tried it one more time, and we were able to get it to work about 50% of the time, albeit with wires running across the room from the stereo out the window.

Having a little more money in my pocket to spend on things, I decided to get a Sirius radio for my car. I already had an aftermarket Alpine radio in the car with my iPod adapter, and I found a specific Sirius-Alpine adapter and ordered it. As soon as it arrived I brought it to Best Buy to be installed, and all was well. Somewhat. The reception in the car was better than what I had been experiencing at home, but it was far from great. But what was really the good news, was that around this time Sirius started its internet streaming and I could listen at work. I was in heaven. It wasn’t as great as when Howard was on my alarm clock radio and I woke up to hear him every day, but from the time I got into the car on the ride to work until I got home at night, there was a good chance that I was listening to Howard. Then my car radio stopped working. I brought it into Best Buy, and the guy there said it needed to be reset. He also said that sort of thing happened a lot with the 3rd party radios. So it worked again for about a month, and then it stopped again. Since I was mostly listening at work, and the car reception was never great, I didn’t even bother to bring it back to Best Buy again.

So I was surviving with just listening at work when my wife bought a new car with a Sirius built-in radio. Now this is how Sirius is supposed to work. She always gets reception in her car. I don’t know if it was the Alpine Sirius adapter, or the antenna is came with, but it was nothing compared to this. So with her free six month trial, she also got an online account. I decided to cancel my subscription, since we’d be using hers. When I called up, the customer service rep suggested putting a hold on my account and re-starting it when my wife’s free trial expired. Sounded okay to me, so I did. But what happened in the meantime was Sirius changed their policy on internet listening to cost an extra $2.99 a month for accounts after a certain date. By switching from my account to my wife’s we lost our “grandfathered in” clause, and now would have to pay more to listen online.

Enter the Sirius XM iPhone app

Now Sirius has released an iPhone app to listen to their channels, 120 different channels to be exact. And its a good looking app too. In addition to the streaming channels, the different channels have images and graphics that look nice, and it has a lot of potential to add more as well. Think of the way the Sirius radios stream text that describes what the current programming is, but a graphical version of that. They could definitely do some cool stuff with it. But as you probably already know if you are reading this, Howard 100 and Howard 101 were left out of the Sirius XP iPhone app, so you can’t listen to Stern this way. The explanation from the Sirius site:

Why don’t certain channels appear on my iPhone / iPod Touch?
SIRIUS Subscribers visit:
SIRIUS & XM offer all of the channels for which we have mobile performance rights. For that reason, certain channels which may be available on your satellite radio or online radio service may not be available on a mobile device like the iPhone.

So that’s a legitimate reason, how to we resolve it? And that’s what brings me to the crux of my article. I want to pay to listen to Howard Stern. I don’t really want anything else Sirius has to offer. I know Howard and everyone else on the show talk about how great the music channels are, but they just don’t appeal to me. I don’t think I’m alone on this one. If I want to listen to music, I will put on something I want to listen to, otherwise I want to listen to Howard. Or watch him on Howard TV, which I also pay for.

So what’s the point?

Howard are you getting the idea here? I have money that I am willing to pay to listen to you, I just need a reasonable way to do so. I don’t want to pay above and beyond a service (the standard monthly Sirius subscription), plus an upgrade fee (“Premium Online” service), plus some undetermined amount if and when the mobile performance rights to your show are added to the iPhone app.

Why can’t online listening be its own stand alone product? Why must I be tied to a car radio when the internet is the future of your broadcasting? Sirius just announced that over a million people downloaded the Sirius XM app within the first 2 weeks. On Apple’s last earnings call, they announced that over 40 million iPhones and iPod touches have been sold, all of which can run the Sirius XM app. As Ralph said to Mel Karmazin when he was on to discuss the merger, the car companies are barely interested in selling satellite radios in the first place. Broadcasting on the internet means no more expensive satellites to maintain. Mobile broadband will allow both phones and car radios to receive their radio signals from the internet in the very near future. Another blog sees other potential in the iPhone app in the realm of al a carte programming. I completely agree.

I was planning on ending this article with a link to some epetition where people could sign and show their support for this idea, but I decided against it. I just want to listen to Howard. I want to pay to do so. But I don’t want to pay for what I don’t use. I would gladly pay $9.99 to be able to listen to Howard online and on my iPhone and none of the other Sirius channels.

I’d love to hear some feedback in the comments on what other people would pay for just Howard. And if you’d be interested in paying for just internet radio and not having to pay for a radio subscription that you don’t want.

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