Spanish-language radio star Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo is borrowing a page from Howard Stern.
Three weeks after severing ties with Univision Radio, Sotelo has made a deal to bounce to SiriusXM satellite radio. This fall, Sotelo will launch a Spanish-language entertainment channel on the subscription service called Piolín Radio, which will be anchored by a live four-hour morning program that Sotelo will broadcast from Los Angeles.
"I am honored SiriusXM believes in me," Sotelo, whose nickname means "Tweety Bird," said in a statement. "As I tell my listeners, 'We came to succeed.' I can't wait to fly free and for the first time be truly available coast to coast."
Piolín Radio will be part of SiriusXM's growing suite of Spanish-language channels aimed at attracting Latino subscribers. With more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S., major media companies have scurried in recent years to add Latino-themed channels to try to capitalize on advertisers' pursuit of the important demographic.
This isn't the first time that Sirius has enlisted a prominent name from terrestrial radio. In 2006, Sirius recruited the provocative Stern, and thousands of his loyal fans, in a big boost for the then-fledgling satellite service.
Until three weeks ago, Sotelo hosted the nationally syndicated "Piolín por la Manana" radio program, which aired on Univision Radio's KSCA-FM (101.9) in Los Angeles and on about 50 stations across the country.
Sotelo garnered a loyal following among Mexican immigrants who were inspired by his rags-to-riches story: He crossed into the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager, became a fixture in L.A. radio and helped orchestrate huge immigration marches in 2006 and 2007, before becoming a U.S. citizen in 2008. Sotelo attracted such high-profile guests to his show as President Obama.
But on July 22, Univision Communications and Sotelo abruptly terminated their more than 10-year association after the company received a complaint from a Univision employee, who alleged that Sotelo had sexually harassed him for several years.
Sotelo denied the allegations, saying he was the victim of a smear campaign.
Within days of his show's cancellation, Sotelo and his representatives began meeting behind the scenes with other radio companies, with at least two expressing interest in bringing Sotelo's show to their airwaves.
"We are thrilled to welcome Piolín back to radio," said Scott Greenstein, president of SiriusXM. "Piolín will draw subscribers and advertisers alike, and represents our commitment to bring the best and most comprehensive lineup of Spanish-language radio programming to a nation of listeners."
With 25 million subscribers, SiriusXM, controlled by Liberty Media, has increased in value following share repurchases and better economic trends. SiriusXM shares closed Monday at $3.83, near their 52-week high.
Wall Street's interest in Sirius has been piqued, in part, by strong sales of new and used cars. An estimated 50 million cars have factory-installed SiriusXM receivers, so the company has the ability to tap that larger pool of potential customers.
SiriusXM plans at least 10 other Spanish-language channels to be on the satellite service by this fall, including music channels "Viva," "La Mezcla" and "Caliente," and advertising-supported news, talk and sports shows, including play-by-play of Major League Baseball games.
SiriusXM also has an Internet radio application that enables non-car owners to receive channels by subscribing to the service for about $15 a month. SiriusXM executives see an opportunity because studies have shown Latinos in the U.S. have among the highest adoption rates for mobile communication services.
The programming schedule for "El Show de Piolín" has not been finalized, but the show is expected to run during the West Coast morning drive time, and then replay throughout the day. The company plans to announce a launch date in the coming weeks. Although the show, which will carry advertising, will be based in Los Angeles, SiriusXM intends to take the show on the road with special broadcasts from New York, Chicago and other major markets.
In a conference call with Wall Street analysts last month, SiriusXM Chief Executive James E. Meyer explained the company's strategy to mine new subscribers by tapping niche markets.
"We keep looking for underserved audiences that have the potential to draw new subscribers for our service," Meyer said.