Worldspace shock: subs are up!
Chris Forrester

Worldspace, the bankrupt pay-radio satellite broadcaster, is doing well in India. Worldspace's Indian operation, despite some heavyweight negative press from disgruntled staff and customers, has seen subscribers boosted thanks to a deal with Bharti's Airtel DTH service.

WorldSpace India is not included in the Chapter 11 insolvency suffered by its Washington DC parent.

Local reports from the Hindu Business Daily say that WorldSpace now has some 450,000 paying subscribers in India, up from 150,000 in the past few months. "When other DTH service providers chose to offer AIR (All India Radio) FM channels, we went in for WorldSpace. This is our key differentiator," says Mr Sugato Banerji, CMO at AirTel DTH.

Currently, AirTel offers 10 WorldSpace channels - Farishta (old Bollywood songs); Moksha (wellness and lifestyle); Gandharv (Hindustan classical); Spin (international pop); Upcountry (Western country music); Shruti (Carnatic music); Spandana (Telugu); Sonar (Bengali); Umang (Gujarati); and Falak (Urdu).

Though these channels are chargeable at Rs 10 (20 US cents a month, for all the 10 channels), "they are bundled into our Rs 200-package ($2) and above," says Mr Banerji. The annual bill works out to Rs 120, compared with Rs 2,000 that WorldSpace charges for 40 channels. He adds that AirTel is only waiting for extra bandwidth and it will add extra WorldSpace channels. According to him, even with these limited channels, AirTel actually added more subscribers for WorldSpace than the broadcaster managed to garner since its launch in India, directly.

Mr M. Sebastian, Managing Director (Asia Star), WorldSpace, says the broadcaster has an arrangement with a Select Media. "The AirTel pact is with them," he says. However, WorldSpace's arrangement with AirTel is not exclusive, he added.