Thursday, March 30, 2006

Worldspace grows in India

Heres a report from Business-standard that says

...Almost two-thirds of the customers of WorldSpace, the US-based satellite radio broadcaster, are in India and the number is growing.

At the end of 2005, WorldSpace, which offers its services in more than 130 countries, had 115,306 subscribers, out of whom 74,574, or 64.67 per cent, were in India.

The subscriber growth in India in the last quarter of the year also surpassed the broadcaster’s overall subscriber growth...

Worldspace radio, from the little I have heard it, lacks the localization connect of FM. Second, it does not play the latest songs - it plays new songs, newish songs, but certainly not the latest songs. The other big thing is that it is contrary to what a radio is meant to be - in an age of portability, it is rooted in one place (this is sorted out with in-car receivers, only a matter of time before you see Worldspace car radios in India). And biggest thing in India - that it is not free in a business where all radio channels are free and have always been free. And subscriber experiences in getting the system installed have not been entirely pleasant (they charge you for extending the wires etc.).

This is not to say that it does not have its advantages. Few ads, 24 hours music, no yapping radio jockeys, a huge selection of channels - especially channels that help a Carnatic music fan hear his kind of music in, say, Guwahati and so on. And this is perhaps its biggest selling point that overrides the earlier disadvantages. With the introduction of a channel for the AOL (Art of living) celebrations, they proved that they too can connect - in a way nobody else can connect the globe.

The other question that seeks an answer is where is AIR? Couldnt they have done something similar, open up with a hundred channels free for air? Instead of brooding over falling revenues? If a paid service can grow so much, why cant AIR? Everybody in media is making money.

But coming back to Worldspace - Worldspace is treading a contrarian path. Will it continue to experience growth? Especially considering ipods (podcasts et al), streamed music over broadband and other personal music systems are becoming more and popular, cheaper and better?


Kaps said...

Given the craze for FM and the various options available, I doubt whether Worldspace would grow. I think it would die a quick death like what happened to iridium. There are so many proprietary standards in Worldspace and people are still not comfortable paying license fee for radio channels.

Neelakantan said...

I am surprised that worldspace managed to make inroads at all (the analogy with iridium seems perfect). We need to see if subscribers stay for a longer term with them or drop off.