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Digital Radios May Feature “Buy” Button

Several digital audio radio companies joined Sirius Satellite Radio in claiming they will offer a “buy” button on future digital radios that will let consumers purchase items directly from their car.

XM Satellite Radio as well as Lucent Digital Radio and USA Digital Radio (USADR) said they are working on a similar feature so that when consumers listen to digital radios (due in 2001 and 2002) and hear of a song they like, they could press the button and order it, for example.

Earlier this week, Sirius announced it was working with leading telematics service provider ATX in Dallas to offer an impulse “buy” button on its Satellite Digital Audio Radios (SDAR) expected early next year. The button would make use of ATX’s two-way, cellular communications and location-based technology.

“We can broadcast something as in a shopping channel and you can just say ‘I want that’ and you hit the button and it identifies what you want and just bills your account,” said Terrence Sweeney, Sirius VP of marketing. “Currently we haven’t announced any dedicated shopping channel but certainly it’s an idea that’s been shown around.”

The first Sirius satellite radios are a year or two off, said Sweeney. Competing satellite digital audio radio format (SDAR) XM Radio said it is working with GM’s OnStar to provide a similar service.

“We’ve been working with OnStar since last June on something with similar capabilities. We are well down the road in developing in-car purchasing and advanced telematics, but we’re not announcing specific details yet,” said a spokeswoman. She added that XM and Sirius are both “letting the world know that the satellite digital audio platform allows for a lot of different products as well as revenue streams. There’s the subscription, advertising and now impulse purchase capability.”

SDAR will be available next year. Both XM and Sirius formats will provide users with a choice of 100 stations, broadcast nationwide, many without advertising. The fee for the services will be $9.95 each and they will require that users purchase new car radios. By 2004, radios offering both Sirius and XM service will be available.

Another digital format called Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will also be available by 2002 offering a digital overlay to the current AM/FM broadcasts to improve the sound of current radio. DAB service companies, Lucent and USADR also claim they can offer a buy button with their services. USADR president and CEO, Bob Struble said “There’s nothing to announce yet but a buy button is absolutely possible using our system with all the capabilities that the satellite guys are proposing and its gotten broadcasters very excited. As DAB stations are local rather than national,” Struble noted, “we would be talking about 12,000 to 13,000 local AM/FM radio stations who could customize the content to target it to local needs.” He said a buy button could appear on DAB radio approximately six months after the first generation models appeared.

Suren Pai, president of Lucent Digital Radio said, “This is a concept we’ve been talking about for the last three years. Although Lucent is a separate company from Lucent Technologies we draw roots back to the parent company and we have great linkages to Lucent which is at the forefront of design in digital wireless systems. So we will have the return channel built into our wireless infrastructure.”