The satellite-based free-to-air digital audio broadcaster, WorldSpace, is set to go pay. The radio service will be repositioned by the end of this month, confirmed Mr Sanjay Ramakrishnan, Head, Marketing. The broadcaster also plans `Experience centres' in four metros and in all major cities, he said.
WorldSpace is at present offering 30 channels; all have turned pay now. "We had converted some of our WorldSpace branded channels into subscription-based ones in 2002; and we learnt a lot from our experience. Now we are confident that we can do well with the subscription business in India. So, with renewed vigour, we converted all our channels into pay in one bouquet," he said.
Subscription to the WorldSpace package would be Rs 1,200 a year for new customers. "But, as a gesture of appreciation, our early citizens can listen to WorldSpace free of cost till the end of 2004," says Mr Bharath Chari, Head, Strategy.
The main idea behind the repositioning drive is to create more awareness among consumers. WorldSpace realised that there are four types of consumers. There is a section of people who do not have a clue about WorldSpace. The second kind are those who have heard of it, but do not know the kind of service it provides. The third set are people who know about WorldSpace but do not know how to access it, while the fourth type consists of those who knows everything about it but are reluctant to buy a receiver because they have not experienced it. "Our drive will address all of them," says Mr Ramakrishnan.
As of now, it is planning to open at least three experience centres each in four metros and major cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad. "We are planning one centre in each city on our own, and at least two by our franchisees," he says. According to him, the first such centre will come up in Bangalore by the month-end on a trial basis. Based on the feedback it receives, other centres will be designed.
After repositioning, it will be virtually ads-free. Says Mr Chari, "We in WorldSpace are bullish on the market. We know our customers are pretty demanding. They see no reason why they should pay to have commercial spots interrupting the flow of music. They want advertising-free entertainment, so we have decided to do away with ads."
WorldSpace has, so far, sold close to 55,000 systems in India, and has around 12,000 subscribers now. It hopes to reach at least two lakh households by this year-end. It has plans to launch another new "economy model" receiver with a price tag of less than Rs 4,000 soon.
"Our programme line is really very strong. Recently, the Sahara group took four channels (Sahara Swar-1,2,3,4) on our platform. One of them will be used to broadcast music in Mumbai suburban trains, for which the group has procured a licence from the Western Railway. We are planning more regional language channels. At present, we have seven Hindi channels, two Tamil and one Malayalam," says Mr Chari. WorldSpace recently tied up with Accel-ICIM to be its national partner in customer-care as far as installation and service divisions are concerned.
Speaking on its financials, without revealing any precise figures, Mr Chari said the broadcaster is still in investment mode. "Though our investment on infrastructure development is almost complete, we plan to invest more, especially in 2004, in customer acquisition. We hope to break even by 2006," he said.
According to him, the company's plan to have an uplinking facility in India has been put on hold. It now has the facility in Singapore.