“I am not coming back next year. This is my last season on America’s Got Talent,” Howard Stern confirmed, to the delight of some of his purist fans — and to the disappointment of all those AGT viewers who know he’s the best talent judge in the business. (Also to the dismay of NBC execs, who know Stern is one of those few irreplaceable characters. Hell, NBC tried for years to ditch Howard Stern! He survived and thrived.)
Stern thought he’d do AGT for a year, he says, but it was “so much fun” he did it for three more. He’s got other plans now, he says. (Again, purists rejoice — this week’s demanding live AGT shows at Radio City Music Hall have taken Stern away from his regular radio schedule.) Stern’s real reason for leaving is doubtless to enhance his already powerful bargaining power with SiriusXM, where his current massive contract runs out this year. Demonstrating complete focus on Stern-centered programming for a new SiriusXM deal — or a competitor’s offer — makes Stern’s position much stronger. In the volatile media landscape of 2015, Stern possesses the one thing that’s hardest to build and most expensive to buy: a big loyal dependable audience. His first Sirius deal was for $500 million for five years. He renewed in 2010. Stern’s worth even more now.