Stern's Satellite Schadenfreude

The Associated Press
Friday, November 23, 2007; 2:57 PM

NEW YORK -- Howard Stern finds himself listening to something different these days: "The Howard Stern Show," on satellite radio.

Unlike his last years on terrestrial radio, where Stern felt his voice was neutered and his program sterilized, the still undisputed king of the shock jocks loves what he's hearing now.

"I know the show is funnier," Stern says over lunch. "I tune in and it's funny. It's a good show. I'm proud of it."

Oh, and one more thing ...

"When you're making a joke," the oft-censored radio star says, "the punch line doesn't need to be bleeped."

Almost two years since his much-heralded leap from CBS Radio's WXRK-FM and terrestrial syndication to Sirius Satellite Radio, Stern is blissful.

He's reveling in the huge increase in satellite radio subscriptions, not to mention the woes of old foes like his ex-employer or longtime nemesis Don Imus.

He's only two years into his five-year, $500 million deal with Sirius and he's already considering a possible extension. Stern is on board with the proposed satellite merger with once-rival XM. And he's proud of his role in expanding the number of Sirius subscribers from 600,000 when he signed his deal to nearly 8 million today.

Stern, his hair creeping out from beneath a black knit cap, is delivering his state of satellite address between bites of two turkey burgers (no rolls, just a salad). Stern admits now that his loud boasts about the future of satellite radio before his debut were as wishful as anything else.

"I didn't think it would be like this," Stern says. "Not this fast. This is crazy. ... I just didn't want to be embarrassed."

It was Dec. 16, 2005, when Stern said goodbye to terrestrial radio after an unprecedented run in the nation's No. 1 market. Tired of federal regulators and feuding with his bosses, Stern signed on with Sirius and never looked back.

But Stern still keeps an eye on terrestrial radio _ mostly as a source of schadenfreude.

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