John Malone is a fan of satellites. The Liberty Media
But he may have bitten off more than he could chew with WorldSpace.
In a statement yesterday, WorldSpace announced that Liberty -- the buyer of its debt in bankruptcy -- broke off "strategic transaction negotiations" with the overseas satellite-radio operator.
"WorldSpace is planning for a potential de-commissioning of its satellites and reviewing its strategic alternatives in light of the termination of negotiations," concludes WorldSpace's brief statement.
It may be just as well.
Satellite radio has proven to be a hard sell outside of North America. The buzz over WorldSpace's IPO died quickly. Maybe it's that WorldSpace landed just 75,000 subscribers -- most of them in India -- at the time of its 2005 IPO, when Sirius and XM already combined for more than 7 million paying customers.
The headshaking moment may have been when WorldSpace still struggled to find an audience while it was practically giving away satellite receivers with three months of service for the rupee equivalent of $45.
The end of negotiations may come as a thud to Liberty's global dreams. They were never completely fleshed out. It probably couldn't afford to acquire the 60% stake in Sirius XM that it didn't own, so perhaps the plan was to sell WorldSpace to Sirius XM in exchange for a larger stake in the world's only successful satellite-radio provider.
The rumor mills will probably continue to crank out possibilities. Satellite companies tend to enjoy rubbing elbows with other satellite companies. It isn't a coincidence that Malone's only vocal competitor to bailing out Sirius XM last year was Charles Ergen -- the guy behind EchoStar
Maybe someone else will step up to give WorldSpace a hand. Hopefully it will be someone with either a short memory or the ability to grasp the nuances of programming language-specific content across many different territories at ridiculous price points.
What's that? I've cleared the room? I guess there is no such thing as Liberty and justice for all.
What will become of WorldSpace? Will satellite radio be only a North American treat? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a subscriber to both Sirius and XM. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.