Europe moves closer to pay-radio

Ondas Media, a would-be satellite pay-radio operator over Europe, has signed German auto-giant BMW to install its system. This major announcement from Dave Krueger, Ondas' CEO (pictured, left), follows similar recent installation agreements with Nissan and Infiniti vehicles for Ondas.

Both parties say they are aiming to see Ondas’ satellite radio chip-sets fitted into BMW vehicles starting in 2012. BMW says: “Following its extraordinary success in the USA, we are looking forward to being in a position to offer our customers the same unique listening experience that is satellite radio within BMW automobiles in Europe.”

As part of the agreement, BMW will include pre-paid subscriptions to the Ondas Media Radio Service with BMW vehicles sold or leased during the initial term allowing customers to experience the benefits of satellite radio. “This integrates Ondas Media’s Satellite Radio offering into the overall entertainment and information experience for BMW drivers.”

Similar promotional schemes were used by Sirius and XM on their US satellite pay-radio systems, and helped drive a rapid take-up.

“The interest we are seeing from high-calibre automobile manufactures in our unique satellite radio service offering backs up the extensive consumer research we have completed to date,” confirms Dave Krueger. “We are now looking at unprecedented numbers of pre-sold, factory-installed satellite radios which will be ready to allow consumers to receive our unique content offering when we launch in 2011.”

This news, at least as far as sat-radio listeners are concerned – comes not a moment too soon given the never-ending problems at cash-strapped Worldspace. On Oct 9 we reported that Worldspace’s shares had hit an all-time low. The slump continued on Oct 10, and it seems unlikely that Worldspace will now be in a position to carry out their plans for an Italian launch in 2009.

Ondas says it already holds terrestrial re-transmission licences for Germany (and Switzerland/Italy), but 2011 is not so far off if it intends building and launching a satellite to serve these markets.

While building its own satellite is an option for Ondas (and it has an initial contract in place with Space Systems/Loral), there are other options. Dave Kruger is on record as saying that Ondas could lease suitable capacity, and as we have been reporting this past week there are a growing number of attractive options for Ondas including the S-Band for transmission. Near-bankrupt Worldspace uses L-Band on its AfriStar craft.