Excl: Bangalore Startup Relaunches WorldSpace Co-branded Radio On Vodafone; To Start Internet Radio Soon

15 Mar, 2012

Two year old firm Timbre Media, co-founded by former executives of now bankrupt satellite radio firm WorldSpace, has collaborated with its shareholder RPG Group's music label HMV Saregama India to quietly launch 10 music channels on Vodafone under the brand name Vodafone WorldSpace Radio.

Timbre Media holds the exclusive right to use the brand name WorldSpace Radio in India.

Talking exclusively to Techcircle.in, Mathewkutty Sebastian co-founder and CEO, Timber Media said, "We have launched music channels on Vodafone, but we are yet to kick off marketing campaigns for hooking the mobile subscribers."

The 10 radio channels available are Farishta (Bollywood music), Falak (Gazal), Sonar (Bengali), Umang (Gujarati), Surabhi, Tunak (Punjabi), Sparsha (Kannada), Thenisai (Tamil), Spandana (Telegu) and Madhuri (Malayalam). These also happen to be some of the channel names under which WorldSpace operated before it went bust, a little over two years ago.

As per the deal, Timbre Media is sourcing the content or rather songs from HMV Saregama. It is doing necessary packaging and production job by incorporating technology, RJing, voiceovers, song mixing to create a package which can be presented to the users on the Vodafone platform.

There are two different services available for Vodafone subscribers – IVR based service (for basic phone users) and data based service (for smartphone users).

Non-smartphone users need to activate it by calling a toll free number at 58000 or by sending an SMS 'ACT Wradio' to 111. Then they would be able to listen to the channels of their choice. The smartphone users will have to access the radio through data based service, sending an SMS and after which they would have to stream song(s) in different channels to listen to it. Additionally, IVR based model users would also be able to see the collection of songs available on the platform.

Timbre is following a subscription- based model where one needs to pay Rs 30 a month with 300 minutes of free usage for smartphone users. The same price is charged for the IVR based service. Although the company did not share details, the arrangement includes a revenue sharing model.

Right now the service is live in most of the parts of the country excluding Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh. "Though, we are planning to launch in these regions soon," Sebastian said.

Currently, it is only available on the Vodafone platform, but Timbre Media is also in talks with other mobile operators to expand its operations.

The satellite music programming firm, which is into customised radio content for multiple broadcast platforms and packaged music and non-music content in various formats, has also ventured into the business of audio books in India. For the same, it has joined hands with some of the publishers and advertisers to do the production and packaging of audio books by proving backend support.

Currently Timbre's focus is on the three key platforms – mobile, DTH and internet. Sebastian added, "That doesn't mean our job of programming radio content for hotel chains, commercial establishments, retail outlet has taken a backseat. But, true we are concentrating a bit more on these three drivers."

Timbre Media is also entering the space of Internet radio soon, which would be slightly different from mobile radio business.

Sebastian said, "The channels will be the same, but the packaging will be different. Certain adaptations and changes have to made to make it available to the Internet listeners. We need to understand that Internet radio listeners will be static unlike the mobile listeners. Hence, the way of packaging and RJ interaction will be different."

But he declined to mention a timeframe of the launch. "Launching a new business is a tedious process. It involves, tech integration, deal finalization, content creation, user interface testing and much more," he added.

Also operational in other cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bombay and Hyderabad, Timbre Media currently has more than 50 RJs.

Last July, HMV Saregama India picked up 10 per cent stake in Timbre Media, which was floated by Sebastian, a former managing director for India and the Middle East at WorldSpace and some of its ex-employees, for an undisclosed sum.

The firm is also looking to raise growth capital for expansion. "Now our effort is to stabilize our business and expand on the available platforms as we have started getting good tractions already," signed off Sebastian.

Another startup in the same business is Venturenet Partners Pvt Ltd, who has secured an undisclosed series A funding from Ojas Ventures Partners which will enable it to expand the services of its existing in-store radio channel, dubbed as SpotRadio, and also to boost resources for yet-to-be-launched consumer Internet radio services, which will operate under the brand Radiowalla.