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WorldSpace makes a comeback

Priyanka Joshi  |  Mumbai 

Timbre Media, Bangalore-based start-up, that had acquired the lice-nce to use the brand, is re-launching its services for mobile users in India. WorldSpace, the satellite radio network, went off air on December 2009, disappointing the 0.45 million users who had invested in the radio sets and premium subscriptions.

will be competing with players like and that too have given applications for mobile radio. Mirchi Mobile, the value-added service application launched by Radio Mirchi, has an estimated 8-10 million subscribers, with 50 per cent active. Users pay about Rs 10 per week for 100 hours of listening.

Entertainment Network India Limited(ENIL)estimates the end-consumer revenue potential for Mirchi Mobile to be Rs 1 billion. Of this, it is estimated that telecom operators’ share would be 60-70 per cent, value adders like technology and infrastructure players would keep 20-30 per cent, and content providers like radio would keep 10 per cent.

* A satellite radio network that provided service to over 170,000 subscribers across the globe
* The service broadcast news, sports, music, special interest, and educational programming which it delivered to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East markets
* The service required dedicated radio sets to receive content
* The company filed for bankruptcy in October 2008 and service in India was officially terminated on December 31, 2009, with no refunds given to its subscribers, on account of bankruptcy
* licensed the WorldSpace brand for use in India and re-introduced the music service in digital format
* WorldSpace music can be now consumed on mobile, DTH and the internet, and has both free and premium content
* Old WorldSpace receivers will no longer work with the new digital service
* Claims to specialise in genre-based music, targeting specific listeners

Big FM, along with Airtel and Spice Digital, allows mobile users to tune in to any city’s station (e.g. user may be in Chennai but can tune in to Big FM’s Mumbai station) There’s also a dial-in music service on Airtel’s mobile network, offered by Hungama Mobile and Vh1 that is priced at a daily subscription charge of Rs 2 per day and browsing charge of 3 paise per second.

Meanwhile, along with Vodafone India will provide WorldSpace Radio service to mobile subscribers in 18 circles and give access to 100,000 songs. A monthly rental of Rs 30 will be charged for the service, where user gets 300 minutes of listening. “After 300 minutes, user can take a top up of Rs 7, where he will get 70 minutes free of listening time,” informed Vodafone India spokesperson. While the current service will be completely on voice, Vodafone added there will be a separate service soon, based on data streaming that will be priced at Rs 5/day.

Is late to the mobile radio scene? Co-founder and head of content, Seetal Iyer does not feel so. She maintained, “We aren’t competing with local FM stations or their mobile services. We specialise in genre-based radio programming, our jockeys are trained on the music genre they present, international music is picked keeping user’s tastes in mind, or the collection of carnatic songs in regional languages etc that we bring is nothing that you will see in any other music service.”

Timbre Media, which is looking to tie up with other telecom operators too, is not ruling out the possibility of launching its service on mobile apps that can be downloaded by smartphone users. “Before we move to other mediums (like DTH), we need to perfect our service with mobile operators. But yes, mobile apps that can deliver premium music content are definitely on our list,” she said. Starting in early 2010, Timbre Media has studios in Bangalore and Mumbai.

In India, the digital music industry stood at Rs 5.2 billion in 2011, making 58 per cent of the revenues of the music industry. The industry grew at 24 per cent Y-o-Y, compared to 2010, and is expected to touch Rs 14.3 billion by 2016.

Saregama India that had reportedly acquired 10 per cent equity stake in Timbre Media and owns nearly 50 per cent of all the music recorded in India, is bullish about premium music content on mobile platform. Madhusudan, VP (digital), Saregama India, lists, “Content, which we share with WorldSpace and also distribute digitally on other platforms, has value-added features like artist’ dialogues, artist insights, lyrics etc. The free music content, available otherwise, does not give you these add-ons.”

Geodesic’s Mundu Radio, another mobile radio service, has native apps, pre-loads its music app on handsets and has also deployed its service on leading telecom networks.

“Mundu Radio is an internet radio solution that offers high quality digital audio music on mobile platforms. Users can access both free and paid content,” informs Kiran Kulkarni, co-founder & managing director of Geodesic, which owns the Mundu Radio service.

Kulkarni added it streams music to 10 million Indian users (free and paid). “What sets us apart is that our service detects the network you are on (2G, 3G or Wi-Fi etc) and sets the quality of stations displayed in search and listings based on your connection. This way you don’t waste data and quality of audio maintained,” maintained Kulkarni.

First Published: Tue, March 20 2012. 00:56 IST