500 channels of TV—In Your Car?

Upscale parents have already discovered the benefits of "mobile theater"—DVD players and LCD screens in sport-utility vehicles that keep cranky kids content on long drives. Soon they will be able to take the "plug-in drug"—broadcast television—with them as well.

This winter, KVH Industries, Inc. will introduce a mobile system that will do for TV what satellite radio services Sirius and XM Radio are doing for audio—delivering hundreds of channels of it to motorists nationwide. Martin Kits van Heyningen, chief executive of KVH Industries, Inc., recently announced that his company is near completion on a design for small "gyro-stabilized antennas" that could enable clear reception of up to 500 channels of satellite television in moving vehicles. The antennas will also enable broadband Internet access at a data rate of 400 kilobits-per-second, according to a mid-December report.

KVH already makes TV antennas for use on boats and recreational vehicles, but those have proved too big for use on cars. Other companies are experimenting with TV antennas for cars, but none are in it as deeply as KVH. The company has gone profitless for two years developing the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal.

No one knows how big the market may be for automotive TV, but it could be huge, given the American addiction to TV and the length of the average commute. "With 200 million cars on the road, and 40 million commuters that go at least 45 minutes each way on their commute, maybe they can complement satellite radio," Bear Stearns & Co. analyst Robert Peck told the Journal's Michelle Rama.

The first generation of the antennas will be sold through after-market autosound installers, with hopes of eventually having them offered as options on factory-new vehicles, van Heyningen said. The projected cost per installation is $2400 for TV only or up to $6000 for Internet service, hefty fees for what could prove to be nothing more than experimental toys. A separate subscription to a satellite service is required for TV reception.