WorldAudio to begin Satellite Digital Radio trial in Darwin

WorldAudio has announced it will begin a consumer trial of Satellite Digital Radio broadcasting in Darwin, which may have long term implications for Australia’s radio industry.

Satellite digital radio companies Sirius and XM have rocked the radio industry’s boat in America, becoming increasingly popular and creating a new subscription business model in the process.

Sirius recently signed Howard Stern in an attempt to further increase take up of its audio services (see
earlier radioinfo story
and has begun to worry the free to air radio broadcasters in that country by providing an alternative radio industry business model.

In this Australian venture, WorldAudio has signed a memorandum of understanding with AsiaSpace Limited (WorldSpace-Asia) to begin the trial, which is the first in Australia to use a satellite based distribution platform for commercial free-to-air digital radio broadcasting. It will commence in January 2005.

WorldAudio’s Radio 2 format will transmit from the southern beam of the AsiaStar satellite, which provides World Space’s radio and multimedia broadcasting services to South East Asia, and includes coverage of Northern Australia in its footprint.

The company will recruit consumers for specially selected focus groups and each will be given a satellite digital radio receiver, and will be asked to listen in at specific times to specific programs broadcast by WorldAudio – Radio 2.

The focus group research, which will take place over the next six months, will provide an understanding of consumer habits including their behavioral and emotional relationship with the satellite based digital radio medium. The research will also explore consumers’ level of understanding and interest in this type of digital radio platform.

WorldAudio Chief Executive Andrew Peter Thompson has told radioinfo: “It is important to gain an insight into a consumer perspective in relation to the introduction of Digital radio. It is my hope that the research will provide useful information to Government and its agencies to help form part of the process of the introduction of digital radio broadcasting in Australia”

Thompson, who is once again challenging the status quo with this new venture, will undoubtedly meet with some resistance from other radio industry sectors, who are already conducting their own terrestrial digital radio trials. World Audio is also involved with the Melbourne terrestrial radio trial.

WorldAudio’s partner in the venture, WorldSpace, is headquartered in Washington, DC, and runs AsiaStar from its Melbourne Operations Centre, which was set up in July 2000. The company is a global provider of satellite radio and multimedia broadcasting services, particularly targeted to third world countries.

WorldSpace established the world’s first satellite radio network, with two active satellites – AsiaStar and AfriStar, serving Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It transmits educational multi-media training packages, as well as retransmitting radio services from many countries including Virgin Radio, BBC World Service and National Public Radio.