From earning less than $100 a week to becoming perhaps the wealthiest personality in radio history, Howard Stern has been through a lot in his near-five-decade-long career. The self-branded “King of All Media” took shocking audiences to new heights (or lows, depending on the listener), and it made him a very, very wealthy man. Not satisfied with only ruling the airwaves, Stern has also succeeded in the TV, film, music, and even book industries, and his bank account shows just how fervent his fans are and how willing they are to open their wallets to support him.
Read on to learn about Stern’s near-half-century tenure as the shock jock, and how many hundreds of millions of dollars he’s made sitting behind the mic.
5 Ways Howard Stern Makes His Millions
1. Early Radio
These days, many people know Stern for his work with Sirius XM, where he has resided for more than two decades, but the host spent a quarter of a century traveling the U.S. looking for work as a radio emcee. For 25 years, he made a living at a number of stations in different cities and states, with his salary climbing with each new role.
Here’s a quick look at some of his most notable positions before he entered satellite radio.
- WNTN - For a few months in 1975, Stern worked in Newton, MA doing seemingly everything needed at WNTN, which gave him his first job in radio.
- WRNW - Stern worked at this Briarcliff Manor, NY rock station twice. After spending a few months there initially, he departed to try his hand in advertising, but that didn’t go well either, according to his memoir. He returned to the station and eventually went on to become production director. He was then promoted to program director, which earned him $250 a week (up from $96), according to Fresh Edits.
- WCCC - in 1979, Stern moved to another rock station, this time in Hartford, CT, but he left when the company wouldn’t give him a $25 raise, according to the Hartford Courant.
- WWWW - In 1980, Stern lived and worked to Detroit, MI for a time to help struggling rock and roll station WWWW. At that job, he said he decided to “be totally honest” with his audience moving forward.
- WWDC - A year later, Stern hosted the morning show at WWDC in Washington, D.C., but he didn’t want to stay too long. When he was offered a one-year extension contract, he turned it down and moved on, according to The Washington Post.
- WNBC - In 1982, Stern was reportedly offered a $1 million contract to go live every afternoon (via Yahoo) on the New York City, NY station for years. He accepted before his tenure in DC was even up, and he was apparently let go in 1985, according to the Washington Post.
- WXRK - In 1985, Stern moved to WXRK offered him a $1 million contract for five years to host a talk show in between rock songs during the afternoons. On top of that sum, he also earned at least another $500,000 from other stations for the right to air the show as well, according to The Washington Post. He ended up going national with this opportunity, as his program became syndicated after a few months. He stayed at New York City’s alternative rock outlet for nearly 20 years, and for at least half a decade. At one point, he was syndicated to 60 markets, with 20 million people tuning in to listen at once. He signed a $10 million extension with Infinity Broadcasting (the company that owned the station), and then years later another that Forbes estimated may have contributed to his $17 million and $20 million annual earnings.
2. Sirius Radio
By the time Stern left traditional radio for Sirius (later Sirius XM), he had already established himself as an in-demand, highly-paid host, but his paychecks grew exponentially when he made the jump.
In 2004, Stern signed his first contract with Sirius. The deal, which saw him agree to run his daily show for five years, paid him $500 million, so says The Washington Post. That sum was not just for him, though, as it was earmarked to run the program, including all salaries for his team. He still likely took home tens of millions per year.
As if signing a half-billion dollar agreement wasn’t enough, Stern and his agent Don Buchwald made huge sums from their stock options, which were included in the original contract as part of the payment. On the day of his first broadcast in 2006, the two reaped the rewards of up to $218 million for hitting subscriber numbers stipulated in the deal. A year later, Stern was given more shares, worth an estimated $82.9 million at the time. He made an additional $25 million when Sirius and XM Satellite Radio merged to form one company.
In 2010, Stern signed another deal with Sirius XM worth $500 million, again for five years. Half a decade later, he did the same once more, only by 2015, the company was also interested in video content as well—though exact financial details weren’t shared. In 2020, Stern’s salary grew yet again, and he signed a five-year contract worth an estimated $600 million, including all production costs.
In 1993, Stern decided to further expand his media empire with his first book, a memoir titled Private Parts. He signed a deal with publishing giant Simon & Schuster for $1 million, according to Ok! for the story, which went on sale later that year. The title went right to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and it reportedly became the fastest-selling release in the company’s history within a week, reports the Sun Sentinel.
Just one year later, Stern signed another book deal, this time with a different publisher. ReganBooks reportedly paid the radio host a $3 million advance for Miss America, according to Paul Colford’s unauthorized biography Howard Stern: King of All Media. The book was published in November 1995, and by the end of that year, it ranked as the third-bestselling title in America, according to another semi-biography named Howard Stern, A to Z: The Stern Fanatic's Guide to the King of all Media by Luigi Lucaire.
In 2019, he returned to Simon & Schuster for his third release, Howard Stern Comes Again, which was largely excerpts from notable interviews from his shows and his commentary about them and stories surrounding them. What he was paid for his most recent book was never revealed, and sales details weren’t touted either.
4. Film & TV
Throughout his decades as a star, Stern has also worked extensively in TV as well as radio, and he’s enjoyed success both on traditional waves and cable, as well as with home videos that fans had to order (back when that was common practice).
Almost all of Stern’s TV shows have shared similar names, which can make things a bit confusing. Here’s a rundown of his series that fans watched on the small screen.
- The Howard Stern Show - Starting in 1990, Stern and his radio staff hosted a Saturday night comedy series for New Jersey-based television station WWOR-TV, which ran until 1992. It ended up being syndicated around the country, though it was canceled before it reached 100 episodes.
- The Howard Stern Interview - The same year his first TV show ended, Stern found another opportunity, only on a cable channel. The program, which aired on E!, saw the host sit down for one-on-one interviews with celebrities for in-depth chats. The series reportedly performed well for the network, and he was paid $1.1 million for 36 episodes, reports VH1.
- Howard Stern - After his debut E! show did well ratings-wise, the cable channel signed Stern to another eponymous program starting in 1994. The series was another way to make more of his popular radio presence, as filming included a handful of cameras in the recording studio taping everything the host and his staff did for their other job. What he made from this offshoot program wasn’t publicized, but it did run until 2005.
- The Howard Stern Radio Show - Stern was able to bring his radio show to TV in two different ways simultaneously, as The Howard Stern Radio Show featured everything from highlights of the radio program to song parodies and other sketches, according to Canadian entertainment publication Jam! It was aired on some CBS stations as a Saturday Night Live competitor of sorts from 1998 through 2001.
- Howard Stern On Demand/Howard TV - Between 2006 and 2013, Stern was again featured on TV, though this latest offering to fans (which changed names halfway through its run via a rebrand) was focused on his Sirius/Sirius XM radio program.
In the late ‘90s, Stern founded his own namesake The Howard Stern Production Company, which is perhaps best remembered for bringing the show Son of the Beach to Fox for two seasons. Stern himself was credited as an executive producer on the program. He also had a number of other ideas for scripted and non-scripted series, both featuring him and not, that never came to fruition.
From 2011 through 2015, Stern also served as a judge on America’s Got Talent, taking over for Piers Morgan. Stern was reportedly paid $15 million per season, meaning he may have earned at least $60 million from appearing on the competition reality program.
Before he entered the traditional TV industry (and afterward as well), Stern demonstrated his popularity in visual media with several pay-per-view projects and videos that had to be ordered to be seen. Here’s a rundown of what he worked on in that field.
- Howard Stern's Negligeé and Underpants Party - Stern’s first pay-per-view event featured the host and the audience in their underwear, along with several celebrity guest stars. Fans could purchase and watch live for a price, and after more than 600,000 chose to do so, the title earned an estimated $1.2 million, according to Colford’s Howard Stern: King of All Media book.
- Howard Stern's U.S. Open Sores - For his second pay-per-view special, Stern met his radio program’s producer Gary Dell'Abate for a tennis match. All 16,000 available seats at the Nassau Coliseum sold out in a matter of hours (according to Letterboxd). In addition to making money from the live showing, followers could also purchase the video.
- Butt Bongo Fiesta - Three years after U.S. Open Sores, Stern returned with Butt Bongo Fiesta, which was created to be watched in 3D.
- The Miss Howard Stern New Year's Eve Pageant - For his last pay-per-view televised event, Stern hosted what he called the Miss Howard Stern New Year's Eve Pageant, which aired on December 31, 1993. He was reportedly paid $1 million up front for the staging, which also cost the company behind it upwards of $2 million to put it on. When all was said and done, the production may have brought in $16 million in revenue, and Entertainment Weekly suggests he may have pocketed $4 million.
Stern has only worked on one major film release, and he both starred in it and wrote the source material. The movie adaptation of his book Private Parts was a relative box office success, as MTV reported at the time that it opened at No. 1 in North America. Domestically, the title brought in more than $41 million in ticket sales off of a budget of $28 million (with another $11 million in marketing, claims the Washington Post). What Stern (and his staff, who were also featured in the picture) were paid isn’t clear, but since they were the stars, and it was his story, he likely earned a healthy payday from the project.
While Stern didn’t launch a proper singing career, he did enjoy some momentary success in the music industry. He released two albums connected to his radio shows—1982’s 50 Ways to Rank Your Mother and 1991’s Crucified by the FCC—but neither were huge commercial wins. For the first collection, he was reportedly paid an advance of $35,000 (reports Fact Snippet), though it doesn’t appear it charted.
Stern earned his sole charting hit with the soundtrack that accompanied his film Private Parts. The CD, which included songs by bands and artists like Marilyn Manson, Green Day, AC/DC and two tracks that featured the host himself singing (with Rob Zombie and The Dust Brothers), bolted to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 ranking. It was eventually certified platinum for selling at least one million copies in the U.S. alone.
What Is Howard Stern’s Net Worth?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Stern has a net worth of $650 million, and the website reports he earns an average of $90 million a year. He appeared on Forbes’ inaugural list of the richest celebrities, with estimated earnings at the time (back in 1999) of $20 million. In 2013, he and Simon Cowell tied for the top spot on the publication’s ranking of the highest-earning TV personalities, with $95 million each.