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Amidst Howard Stern Negotiations & Numerous Talent Firings, The Question Becomes: Where Are You Going, Sirius XM?

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Sirius XM appears to be at a bit of a crossroads. Howard Stern, arguably the company’s most recognizable on-air talent, has all but decided to negotiate his new contract in public, recently stating that “I do get a little charge out of thinking that in December we might be done. I get a little turned on by that.” Mere negotiating tactics, or a genuine feeling of wanting out? Who’s to say? I’m certainly no mind reader. Stern’s current contract has him making around $100m per year, and that’s something Sirius XM would like to change.

Howard Stern isn’t the only high-profile employee to run into Sirius XM’s belt-tightening.

Longtime Opie & Anthony producer Steve Carlisi, known to fans as Steve C., was let go earlier this week. The key is, he was let go and not replaced. Sound familiar?

Dave McDonald, who left Sirius XM’s Ron & Fez show earlier this year despite the best efforts of the Save Dave campaign, still hasn’t been replaced. That makes two producers (the other being “Hurricane” Earl Douglas, who’s since become a published author) the Ron & Fez show has lost in as many years who haven’t been replaced. (Dave McDonald has since moved onto WPJB public radio in New Jersey.)

At this rate the show will be little more than Ron, Fez, and Pepper Hicks all talking into a single iMic.

Big corporations—if you permit me to stretch the truth a bit and consider Sirius XM a “big corporation”—fire people all the time, but to fire so many producers without replacing them? It smacks of financial desperation, as if Sirius XM has convinced itself that you can have a successful radio show without a full team supporting the on-air talent. It doesn’t work that way.

Then again, I’ve never been in charge of a big, successful company like Sirius XM…

And not to think too much into this, but Opie, of the Opie & Anthony show, which has been on satellite radio since October, 2004, just tweeted that his latest contract offer (his current contract expires in October) from Sirius XM is a “joke and insult.”

Way to treat your talent, Sirius XM.

The boys are on vacation this week, and I fully recognize that my idle speculation will no doubt have annoyed them, but these are the types of moves that don’t exactly fill the average Sirius XM listener with any sort of optimism.

And let’s not kid ourselves: outside of certain live events, talk radio is the only reason to subscribe to Sirius XM. We all have music-filled phones, we can all easily subscribe to Rdio or Pandora or take-your-pick. (When not listening to XM channel 202 during the day, I’m listening to Spotify and not COOL HITS RADIO STATION on Sirius XM.) The idea of paying for a one-to-many, top-down radio service in 2010 isn’t quite as appealing when you’re connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, and can hold decades’ worth of music in your pockets at all times.

Not to say that radio is dead, of course, but the idea of paying for radio seems a little out of place these days, particularly when the service is content with firing (and not replacing!) the talent that attracted us to it in the first place.

Of course, our comments are broken here a CrunchGear, so there’s no opportunity to either agree with me or call me a giant idiot.

/me kicks the tires

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