Worldspace US filed for bankruptcy in October 2008 and December 31, 2009 is when their Indian arm will go mute, i.e. will cease to exist from January 1st.
The company, in a letter to subscribers have announced the latest developments and subscribers who have paid for services beyond December 31st stand to lose their money.
“On December 31, 2009, the WorldSpace satellite radio broadcast service will be terminated for all customers serviced from India.
This action is an outgrowth of the financial difficulties facing WorldSpace India’s parent company, WorldSpace, Inc., which has been under bankruptcy protection since October 2008. The potential buyer of much of WorldSpace’s global assets has decided not to buy the WorldSpace assets relating to and supporting WorldSpace’s subscription business in India. As a consequence, WorldSpace, Inc. must discontinue its subscriber business in India. Your subscription contract is with WorldSpace, Inc., a US company that is in a bankruptcy proceeding in the United States. The company recognizes that you may have paid for services to be rendered beyond the termination date, but is not in a position to offer a refund for any unused portion of your subscription.
You may have a potential remedy under the U.S. bankruptcy law. You may file a claim under the claims procedure that is intended to protect creditors of the bankrupt company. Sometime early next year, a claim servicing company will send notice to all creditors listed by the company..- source‘
Launched in 2001, Worldspace India has 35 channels and caters to 4.5 lakh subscribers (majority from Airtel DTH partnership) and contributed 95% to it’s worldwide subscriber base. In hindsight, one can come up with multiple reasons for Worldspace’s failure (great product, bad messaging as it was considered a costly product), what’s really important to note is the debate over niche vs. mass content.
Also, Worldspace catered to niche audience and the hypothesis that niche audience pays premium for niche content may not stand true (lackluster state of English-music-only FM stations is an example, as they fail to attract advertisers).
So things will move back to the normal with listeners flocking to FM stations playing same old ‘hot’ tracks in between the ads.
While Worldspace had technology limitations, I am sure a lot of us will miss the service and the debate of niche content vs. mass content will continue.
What’s your take on subscription content, especially for radio? If you are a worldspace fan, would you pay extra++ for the service (hypothetically speaking)?
Also see: How Local should FM Channels be?, an earlier report that mentions market share captured by pure play Kannada FM stations in a city which has become a hotbed of multiple cultures and languages, i.e. Bangalore.