KL Radio had acquired a channel from WorldSpace in 2001 for airing different genres of Tamil music, on a 10-year-contract basis. The model involved Satellite rent and revenue sharing. The company currently offers 18 hours of programming for its listeners. The programme content is uplinked from Singapore.
The morning segment starts off at 6.00 am with spiritual programming content complete with a meditation sequence, followed by popular film music at 7.30. ‘Thenamudhu’ is a program with selected melody songs aired at 8 am, followed by ‘Ore Ragam’, which airs different songs composed in the same raga. ‘Paravai Ondre’ is a thematic music programme. ‘Endrum Iniyavai’ is a programme that offers old Tamil songs. The most popular choices of the niche listeners of KL Radio are ‘Ragam Sangeetham’, a Carnatic music programme aired during different parts of the day, ‘Indraya Natchatram’, which plays songs based on one particular celebrity who could be the actor, the singer or the lyricist, ‘Nenjil Ninravai’ that plays the hits of a particular year. ‘Iravin Madiyil’, the flagship programme on KL Radio has received good response from its audience across the world. This programme plays melody songs from the ’50s to the ’80s and provides details of the song, year of composition and other interesting tidbits.
About Rs 50-60 lakh was invested in 2001 to market KL Radio but the current rethink in strategy suggests that emphasis should be on focused spending and this limits the budget to Rs 1.5 crore for Tamil Nadu with an additional Rs 2 crore from WorldSpace for the region of the state. The KL Radio Channel was acquired in 2001 and is available at 96khz through the specially equipped satellite radio and is accessible to the consumer on a subscription basis. The company aims at reaching out to the entire Tamil community living in India, SAARC countries, South East Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and UAE. R Krishnamurthy and R Lakshmipathy, respectively the Editor and Publisher of Dinamalar, a Tamil newspaper, are at the helm of KL Radio.
Several media players have acquired channels in WorldSpace targeting different regional segments with music offerings. Sahara has acquired four channels, a channel for old Hindi songs, one for new age hits and another channel with a tie–up with Mumbai Metro train. All India Radio has acquired a channel in which Hindi music and news would be aired.
WorldSpace Radio has embarked on a new marketing initiative of launching experience stores across different metros to help bring WorldSpace closer to the consumer. The WorldSpace Experience Stores allow the consumer to experience the complete line of receivers and sample the dozens of channels available with every WorldSpace subscription. The consumer choices include the FM Satellite Radio hybrids, and the new BPL Celeste 4 for Rs 3,500 including a one-year subscription. Recently, a store was opened in Bangalore and yet another store is soon to open in Chennai at the Spencers Plaza with the Shop displaying only the caption: The World's Largest Music Store. The stores are expected to create awareness about WorldSpace in the mindset of the consumer.
The three major advantages that the Satellite Radio offers is Choice, Clarity and Coverage. Currently, no other single medium has such variety in programming. Also, each WorldSpace receiver is equipped with a data port that transforms the receiver into a wireless modem able to download data to personal computers at rates of up to 128kbps enabling access to multimedia content. The WorldSpace digital signal is clear from fading, noise and interference. The system delivers near-CD-quality sound that is consistent anywhere within the coverage area. The minimum coverage is 14 million square kilometers without loss of sound quality within line-of-sight of the satellite.
However, in spite of all the technical brilliance the cost factor has been the hitch in making WorldSpace accessible to the masses. The Satellite Radio needs a specially designed audio system and also a paid subscription on a yearly basis to receive the different programme bouquets. The scenario is changing due to reduction of duty structures, and from a steep Rs 11,900 in 2001, the Satellite Radio systems are now available at Rs 3,750, which is currently being offered on rent and own scheme at the experience stores. WorldSpace has tied up with several companies to manufacture the radio systems. They include BPL, JVC, Hitachi, and Panasonic.
Says L Adimoolam, Technical Director, Dinamalar: “ WorldSpace is the Radio of the future due to coverage, quality of reception, variety and reach. When the mobile radio sets of WorldSpace are available it can pose a threat to FM. A single WorldSpace Radio is equivalent to all the FM Radio stations in India.”
Comparing WorldSpace Radio and FM Radio, Girish Menon, GM South, MindShare, said, “In Chennai the failure of CAS indicates that anything that is paid is not generally opted for. At the moment, popular film music is most sought after and the local FM radio stations cater to that amply. WorldSpace Radio would be the choice of music lovers who want variety and instead of stacking a range of CDs it may be a better option to buy a WorldSpace audio system”
Suchitra Chandrashekaran, Senior Media Planner, Media Edge, said, “WorldSpace Radio can be an enriching experience for the music lover who wants to savour the depth and variety in music and caters to a niche audience rather than the masses. It could perhaps satiate the needs of the music lover who frequents the music store seeking different genres in music but, CD has the advantage of being retainable without being restricted to what the VJ plays.”
The cost factor and the paid subscription are then the factors that can deter the masses from tuning into WorldSpace but since its inception, the prices have come down and may still reduce down the line. The price cuts may open up the niche market further. At present it seems to be a favourite with the NRI population who feel connected to their homeland listening to regional music. The satellite radio is also widely in use at popular youth hangouts since it is a more cost effective investment compared to purchasing large volumes of CDs. By December, the mobile form of WorldSpace is expected to be launched and will pave the way for car listenership.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, WorldSpace was founded in 1990 by Noarah Samara to provide direct satellite delivery of digital audio and multimedia services, primarily to the emerging markets of the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The WorldSpace satellite constellation will consist of three geostationary satellites, AfriStar, AsiaStar, and AmeriStar.