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Cable, Satellite Eye In-Car Media

Jan 9, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In the world of television distribution, it appears ruling the living room is not enough. Now cable and satellite operators are gearing up to conquer the back seat of the family SUV or minivan.

Hoping to grab a piece of what some analysts predict will be a huge market, DirecTV Group and Comcast last week unveiled plans to help deliver television content to passenger vehicles with the hopes of taking in-vehicle entertainment systems to the next level. Sirius Satellite Radio, meanwhile, announced plans to offer two or three video channels aimed at children. The announcements were made at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Comcast’s plan involves teaming with car-parts maker Delphi Corp. to develop an in-car system that would allow the playback of video content downloaded from a cable set-top box. Delphi will build a device that can upload and play back video content, while Comcast will explore ways to provide access to programming. The companies expect it will take six to 18 months to develop a solution.

Meanwhile, DirecTV outlined its plans for a product it calls DirecTV Total Choice Mobile, through which the satellite operator will offer 125 channels of programming that can be viewed in cars equipped with a special antenna. DirecTV Total Choice Mobile will be available to existing DirecTV subscribers for an additional monthly charge of $4.99. Non-DirecTV customers can subscribe to the package for a monthly fee of $39.99. Customers will also have the option of buying a package of 13 premium channels owned by Starz Encore Group as part of the mobile product.

For its part, Sirius is teaming with software giant Microsoft to develop technology that will deliver video content to cars. The video service will be available starting in the second half of 2006 and is expected to offer two or three channels of content aimed mainly at children, using Microsoft’s streaming media technology to deliver the content to vehicles.

All three ventures come at a time when a growing number of automakers are installing DVD players in cars to entertain rear-seat passengers. n

– JAY SHERMAN