Just in time for the Fall ratings season, the morning radio wars between Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony are spilling all over the media. Newspapers. TV. The Internet. And, of course, the source of it all -- their own radio shows. It's the first true new media/old media battle of rivals...and each show's radio fans fuel the fighting. Labels: Radio
It's The King of All Media vs The O&A Virus.
In this corner...
For 20 years, Howard Stern has been radio's biggest and most successful star. As he destroyed competing morning show rivals in city after city, he built a massive national network syndicating his show across the nation (and even into Canada), slaying all competing radio shows while battling against his FCC antagonists. Many tried to copy his style (or, were clearly inspired by him); most failed, giving Stern victory after victory.
After spending 2005 saying goodbye to traditional free radio, he's deftly kept himself in the news: slamming his former employers at CBS Radio, receiving a huge bonus payment for exceeding new subscriber goals, suing (and settling) over the ownership rights of his broadcast archives, launching Howard TV and the Howard Stern Festival and releasing previously-unseen footage of his 9/11 broadcast.
He's the catalyst giving Sirius faster new subscriber growth than XM over the past year. Stern has been one of most-searched celebrities online during his transition from CBS to Sirius radio. Along the way, he made the cover of Entertainment Weekly (and other magazines) and also made talk show visits on TV, including long-favorite friendly stops for the "Late Show with David Letterman".
So far, it's all good for Stern. Until recently.
There's been a sudden turn in the story. And it seems to be snowballing.
Last week, Hitwise.com -- the online search engine measuring service -- published an article asking the question "Did Satellite Kill the Radio Star?", which reported weaker online traffic to HowardStern.com as well as to his overall search term rankings. Hitwise's measurements were simple math:
>> Larger Stern audience before Sirius; much smaller Stern audience on Sirius today.
>> While still substantial, a lower-than-expected conversion of his old media audience to the new subscription model (some studies show only 12% of Sterns's former audience has made the switch following Stern to Sirius).
>> A long-slowing decline in traffic to HowardStern.com since going to Sirius.
>> A long-slowing decline with Howard Stern as a search phrase.
Adding it all up, Hitwise declared Stern in "obvious decline", creating less impact for Sirius than expected.
Meanwhile, in the other corner...
Nemesis morning radio team Opie & Anthony (and their legion of fan pests and instant messengers) have been saying Howard Stern's in obvious decline for years...but, suddenly, it seems to be a little more real. And it's getting Stern's attention.
After becoming the first major radio personalities to sign on for a satellite radio show (XM Radio) following their two year exile post-CBS Radio scandal, Opie and Anthony quietly rebuilt their rabid core fan base first using new media as their new platform and then by becoming the first show to have both a traditional radio broadcast and simultaneous satellite radio broadcast (as well as an exclusive extended satellite-only show).
In other words, the best of both radio worlds. Something Stern wanted to make happen before leaving for Sirius but couldn't do.
Opie and Anthony took over Stern's old studio and forming a new replacement morning show network. First, they tested a brief attack on Whoopi Goldberg's new radio show. Once that was done, they turned their attacks back on Stern, including during a visit to the Letterman show in late August -- O&A's first appearance ever.
During the show, O&A showed their nerves...but they also struck a comedy nerve, especially with Anthony imitating Stern being "the first of everything". They converted an invite to Letterman (due to the mini-Whoopi attack) into an opportunity to "Howie" bash. That's called trading up.
Meanwhile, Stern reportedly said on his show Letterman's producers sought Stern's greenlight approval of O&A's appearance, implying he could have stopped the booking. Of course, O&A never forgave Stern his gag order when they all were on CBS Radio. This latest Stern proclaimation regarding the Letterman appearance drove O&A nuts...which may be the reason why they decided to rub Stern on the show.
These one-two punch slams from O&A and Hitwise has rankled the reigning radio champ. And gotten the Internet buzzing.
Yesterday, Stern devoted a large stretch of his show claiming to be a "victim of a smear campaign" trying to discredit his new gig at Sirius. Forum readers and radio trend watchers know Stern fans and O&A pests are both rabid supporters for their heroes as well as unified haters of the other show. Seems like the "pests" are making some noise.
Says Stern, "I've got more enemies now than I ever have."
Stern promised to release numbers contrary to the Hitwise report to show traffic on his web site has not diminished since his arrival at Sirius. And explained how fast his show is growing.
Blowing off an interview this morning with "The Rock" promoting a new movie release, O&A instead devoted the 7am hour playing Stern's own audio quotes and slamming him back. When O&A added up Stern's figures, they ridiculed his estimates and just kept pummeling.
Stern has enjoyed an amazing ride while transitioning to new media, even though his actual audience reach has dramatically shrunk.
Opie and Anthony have also jumped onto their own amazing ride, converting their exile (followed by a micro satellite radio show "where the radio rejects went", as they have been quoted) into a multi-media simultaneous broadcast network across the country on traditional radio and satellite radio (and streamed through the internet, too), which continues to expand to more syndicated stations.
As O&A say, their virus is spreading. The King of All Media has noticed and he is responding. Who is the underdog now? Stern has the brand value heritage and history...but he has the smaller platform. Of course, he does have more control of his pay-to-hear, pay-to-view content now. Meanwhile, O&A are the younger, newer show, following in Stern's wake (as well as his exodus). They've never had the audience success Stern has achieved. But they do have a bigger platform at the moment.
Which show can make the biggest noise? Who has the most loyal fans? Stern still has the talent and the power base; how will he use it? O&A just hosted a comedy tour, generating record ticket sales -- an touring event Stern never even tried. Which show will be the most innovative?
Things are getting tense in morning radioland, making the old media/new media nexus really entertaining right now.
This is getting good.
Of course, notice the common thread of it all? CBS and Letterman. hmmm...blame Letterman.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Friday, September 15, 2006,