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Money to Burn

December 8, 2004

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HOWARD Stern's boss told investment analysts yes terday that there's virtually no limit to the abuse he'll take from the shock jock — and that he intends to hold Stern until the end of his contract.

Stern, who is jumping to satellite radio in 2006, is worth $100 million in revenue to Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting in the next 13 months, said Infinity president Joel Hollander.

"You can meet me in the back of the room and, if you want to give me a check for $100 million, I'll take him off tomorrow," Hollander replied when asked why he tolerates personal attacks and non-stop commercials for satellite radio.

"I have a very strong back, [and] I've been dealing with radio personalities for over 20 years," Hollander told analysts at the UBS Media Week Conference. "We don't think we should sacrifice the cash flow right now."

Stern has called Hollander a "skunk" and a "maggot" on the air in recent weeks.

Hollander is also contending with dozens of Stern affiliates who've been loudly complaining about the shock jock's non-stop trashing of conventional radio and lengthy plugs for Sirius Satellite Radio, which announced a $500-million, five-year deal with Stern last October.

"I'm sick of my fellow broadcasters saying I should stay on a sinking ship with them when they keep cutting down my markets, cutting off my money and cutting off the show," Stern moaned to listeners yesterday.

Four stations now clip his show at 10 a.m. whether he's through or not, and several more bleep out all references to satellite radio.

"The image of Howard Stern on all of the radio stations that he appears on is huge," says media consultant David Pearlman, a former Infinity exec.

"To totally disconnect and walk away from all that is a very difficult proposition," Pearlman said.

"Since he is such a unique franchise in making money, I'd probably ride it out," echoes Robert Unmacht, a media consultant with iN3 Partners.

"But if he does too much that his listeners don't like, they'll be less interested in following him to Sirius."

Vows Hollander: "It won't be easy to replace him, but everyone's replaceable."

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