Satellite-delivered radio services provider WorldSpace is on an expansion spree in India. For starters it has tied up with two south India-based media heavyweights for a content sharing arrangement. First in was Asianet's RM Radio; next was Chennai-headquartered Dina Malar group's KL Radio. This move is widely seen as an attempt on the part of the media group to provide local audio content to its growing tribe of listeners across various continents.
WorldSpace entered India as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Washington, DC-based WorldSpace Corporation in 1998, but began commercial operation only in September 2000 after putting the infrastructure in place. "I am happy that within a limited time and given the constraints at the supply end, we have managed to garner 30,000 customers already," said M Sebastian, director, business development, WorldSpace.
WorldSpace's offering for India can be divided into three broad categories. The first category comprises a bunch of international channels owned by WorldSpace. These channels are aimed mostly at the connoisseurs of music and address a specific genre. For instance, one channel offers rock music, another country music, one African music and so on. The second category consists of international broadcasters - such as CNN, BBC, Radio Voyager and Bloomberg - that have agreed to provide content to WorldSpace.
The third consists of regional channels, which is where its latest content tie-ups would come in handy. In India, WorldSpace has tied up with eight language channels, of which five are in Hindi and one each in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. In addition, it has content sharing arrangements with Asianet, Radio Mid-Day, Space Radio, Indigo Radio from BPL, Millennium Broadcast and Sai Trust (which runs the SGH or Sai Global Harmony channel with largely devotional/spiritual fare) for their content to be aired on WorldSpace. On the whole, it offers up to 25 channels in India, out of which nine belong to the WorldSpace stable.
Its business model is as follows. WorldSpace does not pay the local partners for hosting their content on its platform, but gets a fixed fee from them as revenue. The content providers in turn earn their ad revenue through sponsorships. Currently, the organisation is working at improving its broadcast quality. Though WorldSpace has signed on BPL to manufacture satellite radio receiver sets for it, the company faces a tremendous supply shortage. "We are in a position where people want our sets and services but we are just not able to fulfill the demand. Hopefully, by early next year the teething troubles would be over. We would then work at popularising our brand name in a big way," he said.
Alongside, the company is also pushing for tie-ups with large clients for its 'direct media' service wherein it can provide multimedia content to consumers without a dial-up connection. That is, consumers can download data at the rate of 128 kilobits per second by using an adapter (which can be attached to the satellite radio receiver, which, in turn, can transmit data onto the PC). This service is useful to large organisations, which need to transmit encrypted data to specific subscribers.
Concept selling for its unique data delivery service in on on a war footing. It has entered into an alliance with the Department of Science & Technology, whereby it will be able to hook up with science clubs across the country. It has also signed up with Bangalore University for providing educational data downloads. It has been negotiating with IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University) and has worked with it on a pilot project.
According to Sebastian, the unique business model and reach of the WorldSpace platform ensures it does not compete directly with existing media options such as local FM stations (for listernership) or Internet (to provide data to specific user groups). "FM serves its purpose, but at the end of the day it remains like your local yellow page service restricted to a maximum of 50 km radius. The Internet too is a dream for many. WordSpace, meanwhile, does not replace the available media options but supplement them," said Sebastian. Though the company has steered clear of any major media activity to popularise its brand, it hopes to woo advertisers on the promise that it reaches a focused group of SEC A audience, who would be easy to target through WorldSpace radio. "We will do this only when we cross a threshold level of 50,000 users," he said.
Currently, the advertising account of WorldSpace is with Enterprise Nexus in Bangalore, while the AOR account is with Initiative Media. The company has spent over Rs 20 crore for its launch activities, most of which were focused in Bangalore and Chennai. Though its satellite radio receivers have managed to spread to different parts of the country, the company feels that with its initial infrastructure handicap, it made sense for the company to talk to the southern audiences only. "Once our distributor network and service centres are in place, which is likely to be complete by next year, we will be in a position to tout our brand more effectively," he told agencyfaqs!
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