Mel Karmazin’s talk at the D Conference (http://d.wsj.com) started with a funny promotional video that included Howard Stern saying “I knew Mel when he had an afro” followed by some very, very funny photos of a young Karmazin rocking out the fro and a big old mustache. Funny, everyone laughed.
Mel talked about signing Adam Curry to do podcasts, but it was clear that he didn’t see podcasting as a competitor or a major market. Mel added later on that people might read blogs and listen to podcasts but that Desperate Housewives was still huge.
Mel did a little history lesson in which he talked about how he and Viacom didn’t waste hundreds of millions of dollars on a huge Internet play during the bubble. He talked about how he instead bartered excess ad inventory in 30 companies.
When he heard about the AOL/TW deal he said he looked at his wife and said “oh shit here we go again”
Mel recalled how he went to meet with Yahoo after AOL/TW. Yahoo was at $230 a share he recalled and so there was no way for them to figure out a way to do a deal. He said he revisited Yahoo when their stock was $9 a share and they had no interest. “Am I sorry we couldn’t make it happen? Absolutely. The math just didn’t work” he lamented.
When Kara Swisher asked if he was happy about the AOL/TW merger being a total disaster he said that he wasn’t happy but that he smiled a little bit.
Karmazin talked about the battle not being between Sirius and XM, but rather satellite and terrestrial radio. He talked about how Sirius had a 1.3% monthly churnthe lowest subscription churn in the media space he said.
Kara Swisher said: “You’re betting people will pay for this man.” And Karmazin summarized: “There were three things that happened that made me:
1. the car companies are committed to having satellite radio
2. the bandwidth: 120 channels in every market in the country
3. the content: things that can’t be broadcast across terrestrial radio.”
Karamazin also gave a few reasons for doing the Stern deal: a) Howard is in prime time, b) we have all the commercial inventory, c) he is exclusive to Sirius, and d) he is during the morning drive.
And Karamazin went on to say: “We have to get 1M subscribers to break even with Howard.” He thinks he will do that. He said he wants to let the American public chose if they want Howard or not.
He joked about how Martha could do her show from home (big laugh), and eventually come to the studio. Sirius and Martha share the ad revenue for the channel Karmazin reported.