Media Mailbag: Sage Steele, Howard Stern’s Future, Entry-Level Media Pay

Another great week of questions for the Outkick Media Mailbag. The mailbag now goes live every Wednesday. Thank you for your support and questions.

Here we go:

“Is Howard Stern going to re-sign with SiriusXM? SiriusXM has been making more of an investment recently in personalities/podcast companies (Stitcher, Simplecast, etc). Seems they want to go toe-to-toe with Apple, Spotify, AM/FM radio, and be the leader in all audio.”

A fun question to start. This is the biggest media story of the year. Forget Monday Night Football (which, I mean, hurry up).

In June, at the CSFB media conference, SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer said he planned to pick up the pace on contract talks with Howard Stern. Stern’s contract with Sirius expires at year-end.

Meyer admitted the now lucrative podcast industry is an obstacle:

“I think the issue in the renewal with Howard is what does Howard want to do going forward now that he’s seen, you know, what is going on in podcasting,” Meyer explained.

As you point out, SiriusXM is expanding in the digital space. In 2019, the satellite service acquired Pandora for $3.5 billion in stock. However, I don’t know that the acquisitions matter to Stern. It wouldn’t make sense to move to another SiriusXM property. If he were to leave radio, he’d go the Joe Rogan route.

Stern is every bit the difference-maker that Rogan is. Rogan inked a $100 million deal with Spotify to license, not own his podcast. Rogan’s deal is the best contract ever signed by a media personality. Previously, that was known as Stern’s contract with SiriusXM.

I expect this to be an option. There’s one way for a competitor to counter Spotify in the podcast wars: Howard Stern.

I’d still bet on him staying, though. SiriusXM can’t afford to lose him. He’s ingrained in its business plan. Plus, he can’t even adjust to a home studio. You think he’s looking to change mediums?

“What was the impact of Tucker [Carlson] taking last week off for Fox News?”

He wasn’t off all last week; he hosted Monday’s show.

Brian Kilmeade filled in Tuesday-Thursday and Lisa Boothe hosted the Friday edition. Here are the viewership numbers:

Tuesday — 3.8 million

Wednesday —3.6 million

Thursday — 3.4 million

Friday —3 million

There are hosts who maintain a slot’s base audience and hosts who bolster the said slot. Carlson, as much as anyone right now, is in the latter.

The impressive 3.5 million average in Carlson’s absence was in part due to the fill-ins. Typically, fill-in numbers drop when the audience sees someone they aren’t familiar with.

Kilmeade is one of the network’s biggest stars. He’s everywhere on the channel. Literally, from morning until night.

While Boothe doesn’t co-host Fox & Friends or front a national radio show, she’s a frequent guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson’s audience knows her. Additionally, she’s a rising star in the industry. The Friday episode, hosted by Boothe, led all of cable in viewership.

Last week was not Aaron Rodgers to Brett Hundley, to simplify it.

“Wow, that WSJ story on Sage Steele. Wouldn’t she be better off bolting? ESPN has no place for anyone who isn’t far left. She’s the only one left who isn’t.”

She isn’t the only ESPN talent who isn’t far left-leaning. There are others; they just hide it. Not that Steele is open with her political leanings.

Would she be better off elsewhere? Possibly. She’s a dynamic host, which is invaluable and always needed.

I am not high on ESPN’s direction. You can read why here. The network has reverted to 2016. It has embraced social topics that are disproportionately discussed by left-leaning personalities. Of them, many are far-left. This boneheaded decision isn’t just bad for those in the center and on the right, it’s bad for everyone.

Viewers don’t want it. When viewers tune out — and they will, they have before — it hurts everyone. Thus, outside options are more appealing … if available.

For all of ESPN’s mistakes, there remains a lack of destinations elsewhere. High-profile jobs don’t often open up at NBC, FOX, CBS, or Turner. If one were to, at the time of Steele’s next contact, she could be a candidate. But that was the case before this report.

Sources say, during Steele’s previous contract negotiations, NBC expressed a strong interest in her.

To answer your question: it depends on her options. A question that could be unknown until her current contract expires.

“Media Mailbag: What do you make of the comments around the meteorologist job posting and comparing to sports media entry level what do you think about the salaries in-general?”

*Here is the tweet the user is referring to:

Entry-level pay in sports media is all over the place. It varies on market, affiliation, website, agency (if applicable), network, timing, and skillset. If there is an average, it doesn’t mean much.

Online writing salaries are sporadic. The compensation varies from salary to per click to writing for free. Employers can choose to make a writer an employee or an independent contractor. To be honest, I have no idea what most start out at.

Earlier this year, radio expert Jason Barrett started a telling Twitter discussion. A list stated that starting radio pay is around $41,000 a year; Barrett was shocked.

“Anyone familiar with early radio pay at 41K? I’d love to know your secret,” Barrett tweeted. “I didn’t reach that income level until I was in the business for 8-9 years. I think the Chicago Tribune may want to take a second look at that.”

Barrett’s tweet went viral with agreements that the amount was unrealistically high.

Based on those comments, starting radio pay could be akin to the meteorologist job posted.

TV, too, depends on a litany of factors.

Now, this isn’t a discouragement. If you find something you love, are willing to learn, take risks, and get better — there could be money in it. In competitive fields, you have to get good first. Employers have to want you; you have to have leverage. That comes with time and growth.

You also have to be a little out there. I haven’t met anyone successful in this business I would consider normal.

You have to sacrifice innings worth of singles and doubles.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

11 Comments

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  1. Honest to God, who listens to Stern? What value does he bring? He has not been entertaining in, what, 20 to 30 years? I don’t get it, is he secretly paying to be on the air to give the appearance he is popular? I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone sometimes. I always hear he gets paid a huge salary…from who exactly? Are we sure it isn’t some dummy corporation and he is paying himself? I guess I am just out of touch with what most people find entertaining.

    • Stern’s act is tedious. I think he gets a lot of listeners that cross the country (truckers and such) or people that drive around NYC. He was funny when I was a young punk and he was on DC 101 locally 25+ years ago at least.

      His movie private parts was actually well done.
      He loves $$$ … literally.

  2. When Disney’s 2020 revenues are actually and fully disclosed, ESPN may become totally automated like all 3 of the Lord of Rings battle sequences.

    Maybe ESPN will always be around in some form or another like MTV and PBS, but Nothing is really forever …

    Wish we had a new choice for sports coverage. Maybe a media empire with a grass roots following. A truth telling operation. Hmmmmmm

  3. ESPN has apparently decided that even if viewership and revenue decline substantially, that’s a price they’re willing to pay to achieve their “social justice” goals. ( Parent company Disney seems willing to take the financial hit. NBA believes that most of its audience supports BLM — so if NBA loses a small portion of revenues due to its politics, that revenue can easily be recaptured in non-US markets. The team owners and businesses are now so dependent on the players that they must comply with player wishes — even it means downsizing.

  4. On that meteorologist Twitter thread I found this tweet:

    “Journos – stop justifying pay that is not a living wage. Just because you did it —- doesn’t mean it’s right. In addition – low wages disproportionately keep Black journalists out of this field bc their parents often don’t have the same wealth as their white counterparts.”

    Y’all, this is the world we live in – where people prioritize reasons over results. Lady is implying black people can’t get into journalism because they don’t have rich parents (like white people) to subsidize their low wages when starting a career. Boss the f*ck up.

  5. $25,000 comes out as $12.50/hr over a 40-hr job. I’ve noticed those low salaries with other jobs requiring Bachelor’s Degree and a minimum two years experience.

    There are warehouse and retail jobs that start people at $15.00/hr with benefits. Obviously, those jobs require a GED and a clean drug test. That’s about it.

    It seems wrong that entry level jobs requiring a college education pay (and often multiple years of experience) more than grunt work.

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