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Although satellite TV for the car remains a small niche, momentum for the segment is building with Audiovox and Sirius announcing new products at CES, and Delphi and Comcast entering the market with plans for a wireless on-demand video system for the car.
DirecTV also announced at CES a special programming package for its TV subscribers. Current DirecTV subscribers can add a mobile TV subscription for an additional $4.99 per month and they will also receive a special Starz Entertainment Super Pak of 750 movies per month on 13 channels, said the company.
Until now, the market has been a small niche dominated by KVH, which began selling the first slim-line roof-mount antenna/receiver system (now at $2,295) late in 2002. It works only with DirecTV service and 1,700 units sold in the first few months. KVH has not disclosed additional sales figures, but Audiovox predicts total industry sales of car satellite TV systems in 2005 of about 35,000 to 40,000, according to Tom Malone, mobile electronics senior VP. “This is going to be the next add-on for mobile video,” he said.
Winegard began selling a $1,999 product last year that works with both DISH Network and DirecTV.
Now Audiovox is entering the segment with a new slim-profile antenna/receiver developed with RaySat of Vienna, Va. Called the SkyBox, the system is expected to sell for about $3,000, beginning in February. It can receive DISH Network as well as other DBS services in the United States and ExpressVU in Canada. The antenna measures 5.7 inches high.
Audiovox will offer SkyBox through retailers and expediters, but expects the expediter market will be stronger initially, given that consumers can roll the cost of the system into the financing for a new car.
At CES, Sirius confirmed but delayed its plans to offer satellite video for the car. The company said it will provide two to three streaming satellite video channels of mainly children's programming by the summer of 2006.
Also at CES, Delphi announced a partnership with cable-market leader Comcast to develop a wireless video system for delivering Comcast content to the car within 18 months.
Delphi said the Comcast product might be based on a Wi-Fi/hard drive system. When a car pulls within range of the home Wi-Fi system, the Delphi/Comcast system would automatically send new video content to the car's hard drive player.
XM said it continues to investigate offering satellite video channels but said it does not pre-announce products.
KVH's president Martin Kits van Heyningen said he expects the car satellite TV market to grow rapidly due to the proliferation of video monitors shipped as factory equipment in new SUVs and minivans. He said approximately 1.5 million vehicles were equipped with factory monitors in 2004, but by 2008, that figure is expected to increase to 18 million.