eWhen was the last time you heard someone say THAT? Probably about a year ago, when Howard was still broadcasting his show on FM radio. Despite being able to say the "7 dirty words" whenever he wants, no one is talking about the show anymore.
And despite all the Sirius advertising that is bombarding us in the fourth quarter of 2006, our Technology Web Poll back in February accurately foretold the reality: the vast majority of Stern fans made the switch around the time Howard did. Relatively few consumers are going to simply buy the marketing and purchase Sirius late this year because of Howard.
The fact is that as good as Howard is, environment plays a role in his success. And with Sirius, his landscape has changed. He isn't attached to a real radio outlet, his reach has been greatly diminished, and with it, his influence. While he's making a lot more money now than he made in terrestrial radio, the fact is that it was a better environment for him. More people could hear him in concentrated areas, and therefore, generated the buzz for the show. The friction between Stern and the FCC, played out every morning on the radio, was great drama. Now that's gone, too.
This chart shows how Howard's "search" volume on Google has changed over the years (the letters indicate certain levels of activity, tied to events such as "C" - his announced move to satellite radio). You'll note that the only "event" in 2006 (F) occurred back in February when a story broke about how Stern is attracting ad dollars to Sirius. Beyond that, 2006 is a very flat to down year for Stern, with none of those telltale "peaks" back in the old, terrestrial radio days.
We used to see the impact of environment on Stern from radio station to radio station, and market to market. When he was on a great station with a real format, he tended to have blockbuster numbers. When he was on a dog station that played music that was much-duplicated in the market, or just not very good, his ratings seriously lagged. Despite the fact that it was the same show all over the U.S., the Arbitron numbers were far different, depending on the situation. You can look it up.
This isn't just true in radio. Right now in sports, we're seeing this play out in the NBA as former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace took a few million dollars more, and took his 'fro to Chicago to play for the Bulls. But one month into the season, nothing's working, despite the fact that Ben is the same player, the baskets are still 10 feet off the floor, and quarters remain 12 minutes long. In a different environment with new team chemistry, and stricter rules and regulations, Wallace's play, his image, and his impact is suffering. He's gone from a team leader to a guy who Chicagoans are already questioning.
Sometimes, athletes - and DJs - don't realize the difference that a new environment can make - good or bad. In market after market, we see jocks get greedy, leave a great station and killer situation for something less wonderful. And most of the time, their results pale in comparison. And conversely, we see personalities move to a great station and finally thrive - after years of mediocrity. That combination of player, coach, and team can make all the difference in the world.
Isn't that the storyline for Opie & Anthony who did their shows in essential anonymity until they were rescued by terrestrial radio in 2006? While they have not achieved Howard-esque numbers yet, their profile is considerably higher. To substantiate that claim, look at searches for these guys on Google over the last three years:
They got a nice "hit" when they returned to the airwaves in August '04 (B), but once on XM, searches were stronger than when they were in exile - but not by much. Note only one "moment" in '05 (C - a fan disrupting a live broadcast). But in 2006, their return to terrestrial radio (D) created a search explosion, followed by more news of their comeback. Note how much stronger their search activity has become since returning to the better environment that is FM radio.
Environment matters. It's never just about the dough. It's about working with a great staff, in a great market, for a great company, with a great franchise. The great ones eventually figure it out.