Monday, January 23, 2006

What's Howard Stern doing right this minute?

I love satellite radio. I can blissfully listen for hours without ever hearing “You’re mattress is freeeeeeee”, Skip & Steve, and “this is a Clear Channel station”. Terrestrial stations boast “12 in a row”. Well how about “12,000 in a row”? All for the monthly cost of one ticket to a Queen Latifah movie.

I have XM. Sirius is pretty much the same except Howard Stern will bankrupt them. XM has Major League Baseball which is the big draw for me. Vin Scully vs. Robin Quivers? Talk about a no brainer. (of course so is pneumatic drill vs. Robin Quivers).

To get the most from their big investments, XM and Sirius both are devoting a lot of time and channels to these premiere attractions.

In addition to all the MLB play-by-play, XM also offers a 24/7 baseball talk station. Fine during the season but what the hell do you talk about the other five months…24 hours a day?

“Curt Schilling update: his ankle is still healing. The lines are open. Let’s talk about it…for the next seven hours.”

Forget the players, the hosts need steroids just to get through those shifts.

But their job is cake compared to the team of eight (yes, EIGHT) poor newscasters who have to anchor…

HOWARD 100 NEWS on Sirius.

These former actual journalists must fill four hours a DAY with news about (and only about) Howard Stern.

“Curt Schilling’s ankle is still healing. How will it affect Howard? Let’s go to Julie for this live report.”


I’ve always liked and admired Howard Stern. Even way back in Detroit when we were jocks on competing stations (He on W4 and me on WDRQ – “W-Dreck” as I used to aptly call it). I haven’t heard the show but I have to assume it’s a goof. It is a goof, right? Please? Still, those newscasters have to see GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and want to kill themselves.

And this news (?) show follows a post-game wrap up of Howard’s show and precedes more analysis of the day’s program by (are you ready?)…his parents. (What, Ryan Seacrest didn’t apply?)

Come on! There has to be SOMETHING better Sirius could program. Something not trivial. Something substantial, important, relevant, informative, entertaining -- something the public would really want to hear the remaining sixteen hours a day. Something like….



Shawn Bowers said...

I don't see myself subscribing to one of these satellite radio things. I just don't see spending the monthly fee for it...of course, I'm one of those that only listens to the radio in the car. And as a college student, I do more walking than driving.

But then again...I said I'd never pay for Tivo either. And boy has my tune changed there. I guess you never know.

Anonymous said...

I've got XM through DirecTV. Love it. LA radio leaves a lot to be desired and it's cool to get introduced to new acts you'd never hear; and to control the listening experience. Ken, who are some of your fav. play by play guys? Driving through the midwest when Costas was doing Cardinal games, (or, Jack Buck for that matter) you just knew where you were. Same with Scully in LA. I get MLB league pass on Directv and have really enjoyed Duane Kuiper and his partner (can't recall the name) on FSBay Area. Would love to read about what a day as a baseball play by play guy was like.

Pamela Atherton said...

Tim... Ken has written such a book ... about several days in the life of a play-by-play announcer. It's called "It's Gone... No Wait a Minute." You can find it at Amazon and Ebay.

By Ken Levine said...

Thank you, Pam. Yes, I believe for less than a dollar you can order my book on Amazon. By the way, Pam has a nifty podcast. Check out her site at


Among my favorite baseball announcers: Scully, Jon Miller in SF, Dave Niehaus in Seattle, Marty Brenneman in Cincy, Joe Buck and John Rooney in St.Loo, Eric Nadel in Texas, Tom Hamilton in Cleveland, Pete Van Wieran in Atlanta, Ed Farmer in Chicago, and the two young guys who do the Tampa Bay radio broadcasts.

Frank Strovel III said...

Ken, the point you're missing is that there are a couple million people who do "give a fuck" already. Howard Stern has one of the most fiercest and most loyal audiences of ANY entertainment show.

They're LOVING what's airing on Sirius now: Howard 100 News, Tissue Time w/ Heidi Cortez (yep, it's what you think it is), the Howard Stern Fan Roundtable and several other Howard-related programs.

They're not for me. I do not subscribe. I prefer the "old days" of Stern and liked him best when he was getting something out of an interview that no one else could get or when they were just doing the news. The constant stream of porn stars and guys pooping on the floor got really old a long time ago.

As for terrestrial radio, you can thank Clear Channel, Infinity and their ilk for listening to consultants (folks who keep getting fired from radio stations and now think they know what everybody wants to hear) and for helping make satellite radio the necessary evil it is.

Anonymous said...

Ken, thanks for noticing Tom Hamilton. He gets a little excited as a homer, but he does good work. He's also excellent at Big 10 basketball, which he does for Raycom.

I'm young, but I miss Ernie Harwell doing Tigers games.

I love hearing Miller and Rooney when they're on for the playoffs on ESPN radio.

Anonymous said...

I love my XM! Go Pirates! Yeah, I know...

As to Stern... he was funny about 10 or 12 years ago - either because I was younger and less mature, or he was fresh.

But in my opinion, he has not given his audience - loyal or not - anything new or interesting or unique, in several years.

I agree the money Sirius gave him will destory the company. They are already so far behind XM in profits, etc., and the WSJ reported that the big subscriber enlistment that Stern was supposed to provide fell about 15% below the company's estimates.

One journalist made a great point - the majority of his loyal followers can't afford the product.

Frank Strovel III said...

FYI and for anyone interested...

David Lee Roth is now blogging from his radio show.

Anonymous said...

Radio? What's a radio?


VP81955 said...

XM has a nice array of programming, including "Frank's Place" (the "great American songbook," performed by the likes of Sinatra, Bennett, Fitzgerald and a number of fine current artists like Diana Krall) and an old-time radio channel that's a lot of fun. (Movie buffs should check out "Lux Radio Theater," which featured adaptations of films of the day -- often with different leads than in the movie, and the comparisons are fascinating.)

Oh, and let's not forget Harry Kalas among the great baseball announcers, even though he's now better known as the voice of NFL Films and all sorts of commercials. His chemistry with the late Rich Ashburn on Phillies games was sublime. Trouble is, these days Harry spends most of his broadcast time on the TV side, only doing an inning or two on radio unless the Phillies are on Fox or ESPN, in which case he'll do like six innings or so on radio.

And since I've returned to the Washington area about the same time baseball did, I've come to enjoy Charlie Slowes on Nationals broadcasts. Very solid.

I'll leave you with this: Chicago was one of the first metropolitan areas where baseball was carried on radio, back in the 1920s. It's had plenty of famed play-by-play men: Hal Totten, Bob Elson, Russ Hodges (yep, he worked there in the '30s before going to the Giants), Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray (remember, he worked both the north and south sides of town). But none of them ever achieved what John Rooney did last October -- call the final out of Chicago winning the World Series. The irony: the Sox changed affiliates for 2006, and the new station couldn't work out a deal with Rooney (one of the smoothest, most underrated announcers around). So he'll be broadcasting in St. Louis this spring.

Anonymous said...

"Coming up: Keira Knightley talks about the unconventional things her mother did to help her improve her body image.

For the next six hours."

Anonymous said...

First off I'm personally hurt that you don't listen to Vin on AM 980. Secondly, I'm hurt that my voice is carried on XM Dodger games with no additional compensation….gotta love that AFTRA.
Finally, Howard Stern has his legions including me that love to hear all things Howard. Ironically I'm now so hooked on Adam Carrola I still haven't bothered to pick up a satellite receiver…I'll get around to it one of these days.

Bill Nesbitt

rogercarroll said...

Ken, it won't be long they will do opening commercial billboards on the hour and closing hourly bilboards. Then start inserting commerials. The announcement will read to maintain our high standards ,our higher operating costs to bring more outstanding programs we will be having commerial messages.
Ken, hope all is well rogercarroll

Anonymous said...

So can I assume that we are on the same page regarding Keira Knightly, or was that just an off-the-cuff comment? Because I've got to tell you... that girl is a welcome addition to The List. I mean, I don't want to sound creepy or anything, but I TOTALLY want to get creepy with her.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant Knightley. As in, I stalk Keira Knightley.