He insists this is no fallback position or secondary strategy. But Tampa shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem admits he is taking a chance, establishing his own suite of Internet radio channels after talks to continue his show on Sirius XM satellite radio broke down.
Clem said this week there remained an outside chance that Sirius star Howard Stern, a longtime friend, might push the company into crafting a new deal with him. But currently his name and programming are off the channel that has been his home since 2006 — back when no traditional radio company would hire a button-pushing personality fired by Clear Channel after earning a $755,000 federal fine.
Five years later, Clem is in a decidedly different space, accusing Sirius of "lowballing" him in renewal negotiations while finalizing plans to create a new online space for his programs with the service RadioIO.
Starting Monday, fans can head to Clem's area on RadioIO.com and hear a live stream of the morning show he hosts for Cox Radio station WHPT-FM (the Bone 102.5), with rebroadcasts at noon and 7 p.m. Clem also plans music channels programmed by each of his sidekicks, an uncensored, Internet-only midday show, access to archives of his programs stretching back to his Clear Channel days and an iPhone app allowing listening through mobile devices.
The site will be free for all until March 1, when Clem will split the service into free and paid content. With fees ranging from $9.99 to $12.99 monthly, the shock jock hopes to mirror Stern's approach on satellite radio on a new platform, cutting out the middleman by selling his radio content directly to fans (all of which is separate from the explicit videos Clem makes available on BubbaRaw.com for $9.99 a month).
"It's a scary time for personality-based radio. … talk radio is a dying breed," said Clem, who blamed new ratings-gathering technologies for pushing stations into playing more music and downplaying talk. "I'm betting on myself in a big way. … I'm not going to answer to anybody."
Clem also criticized current employer Cox Radio for not spending money to promote his terrestrial show, which still earns high ratings in the Tampa area but has struggled in markets like Miami. In a disclosure that sounded a little like negotiating by media, Clem announced he might walk away from Cox when his deal with it ends next year, if the RadioIO venture works.
When asked how much money he might make online, Clem noted that the free RadioIO streaming drew 42,000 unique visitors Monday. If half of them bought a $9.99 membership, he could generate more than $200,000 in monthly fees through the service, where his agent Thomas Bean, serves as chief executive. "Nobody has been able to monetize Internet radio yet," Clem said. "But the first one in usually makes the most money, and I'm the only self-contained show around. Sirius set me up perfectly for this pay template."