The free ride for Howard Stern fans has ended. Stern, a New York radio fixture for 20 years and host of a syndicated show for 12 million daily listeners, bid farewell to his fans with a final show tod

The free ride for Howard Stern fans has ended. Stern, a New York radio fixture for 20 years and host of a syndicated show for 12 million daily listeners, bid farewell to his fans with a final show today (Dec. 16) on terrestrial radio. On Jan. 9, Stern makes his move to satellite radio, where his once-free speech will cost listeners $12.95 a month.

"Good morning, and welcome to the last show on terrestrial radio," Stern said to launch his grand finale. The sound of "Taps" played in the background. The show opened with a Stern-centric remake of the classic "What a Wonderful World" and John Lennon's "Imagine."

As the show went on, several thousand people stood in a steady drizzle along 56th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues; many waved signs praising Stern and attacking the Federal Communications Commission. Among those onstage there were Stern regulars Jeff the Drunk and Beetlejuice, who led a singalong.

Stern later delivered an address to his radio fans, finishing up a quarter-century on terrestrial radio as arguably its most influential figure. A post-party was planned at the Hard Rock Cafe, featuring a concert from Sheryl Crow.

Stern leaves behind a plethora of imitators spawned in the wake of his radio success, when his show enjoyed an unprecedented ratings run to hit No. 1 in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.

His move to Sirius Satellite Radio, while somewhat risky, comes with a huge financial reward: Stern signed a five-year, $500 million contract to jump. He's creating two new channels for Sirius, with the salaries, overhead and other programming costs coming out of his windfall.

Sirius is depending on Stern to reverse the company's money-losing ways. Since the 51-year-old shock jock announced his move last year, the number of Sirius subscribers jumped from 600,000 to more than 2.2 million. That figure was expected to hit 3 million by the end of this year.


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