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Satellite downloads are revolutionary

Two small bits of news last week showed how precarious and revolutionary digital convergence can be, writes N Madhavan.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2008 21:09 IST
N Madhavan

Two small bits of news last week showed how precarious – and revolutionary – digital convergence can be. One was that of WorldSpace radio filing for bankruptcy protection – with the promise to sustain its satellite-based services at cheaper rates – and the other was direct-to-home (DTH) player Tata Sky starting to offer downloads of programmes so you can watch it at your convenience, with a substantial 160 GB memory to hold your content.

Now, WorldSpace has been rechristened 1WorldSpace and has done a remarkable job for people like me, offering 24/7 channels on old Hindi film music, Carnatic and Hindustani music and World Music. It has also had mysteriously underused data download channels but I always used to fantasize about the day when I could use a WorldSpace (or any other suitable satellite radio) to download from the sky any content I want anytime. Did you know for instance that Orbit Rock is a rock music channel broadcast from Bangalore through WorldSpace, and caters uniquely to a blend of stuff tailored to local tastes?

WorldSpace is busy getting its price right and also needs to figure out if it can go the Tata Sky way. But it is clear to me that one player or the other, and sooner or later, is bound to offer value-for-money downloads from the sky – of music, talk shows, news, videos, movies, whatever!

The dish and whatever you might call the receiving device in your drawing room are where the game is at. Television, as we knew it, and prime-time, as we knew it, and mass programming, as we knew it, are all fading away like a nice pair of blue jeans. Content might emerge as the king, but a lot needs to be thought about who will pay for it and how.

But it is clear to me that in more ways than one, sky is the limit.