KAI RYSSDAL: This next item may or may not be just the accessory you've been dreaming about for your next car. It probably won't be the thing that saves Detroit. But satellite television's coming to the minivan.
Chrysler announced today it's made a deal with Sirius to offer kid-friendly channels, like Disney and Nickelodeon, on some of its 2008 models.
If you're remembering right about now that Chrysler's in some pretty deep financial trouble, and that Sirius is trying to team up with that other satellite radio outfit XM to cut costs, then you're probably also wondering why two struggling companies would be making a deal like this. Helen Palmer at WGBH in Boston has the story.
HELEN PALMER: As Chrysler sees it, this is straightforward product enhancement.
MICHAEL KANE: We've been the leader in the minivan market since we started it 20 years ago. And our intent is basically to please customers.
Chrysler's Michael Kane says providing Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network will keep the kids quiet — and it's what minivan-driving soccer moms want. And people who know cars think it's a great strategy.
Paul Eisenstein edits an online magazine, TheCarConnection.com.
KANE: It's a very smart move by a company that knows its market. I think that it's gonna play out very successfully for them.
Media watchers also call this a step forward.
John Carroll teaches mass communication at Boston University. He says portable media's big business.
JOHN CARROLL: I think what Sirius is looking to do here is to provide something that's a value-added feature, reach a potential new market. And also, perhaps as a hedge against the possibility that this merger with XM will not go through.
XM is the other satellite radio company. Sirius says there's enough bandwidth to provide three family TV channels to Chrysler — they have an exclusive deal with the company. The whole package will add $470 to the price of a new minivan. After the first year, it'll cost $19.95 a month. Which is probably a small price to pay for peace in the back seat.
Paul Eisenstein thinks this innovation will spread across the fleet — even to luxury cars.
EISENSTEIN: There's a lot of people who get chauffeured around that would love to have television in the back, if nothing else so that they can watch the stock market reports.
The rest of you can listen to Marketplace.
In Boston, this is Helen Palmer for Marketplace.