Struggling Pandora unveils its challenge to Spotify
The internet radio service adds an on-demand streaming service
December 8, 2016
At this point, the struggling internet radio pioneer clearly thinks it’s worth a try.
This week it introduced a new Spotify-esque service that will allow users to access music on demand, much as its rival streaming service does.
It’s a way to put more control in listeners’ hands, a move that’s probably necessary in today’s world. More and more, people are choosing to watch favorite shows on demand through time-shifting or VOD, rather when they’re airing live.
Little wonder, then, that they want that same sort of control over their music.
The new service is called Pandora Premium.
It costs $10 per month and works a lot like Spotify, allowing users to find music they like and access it whenever they want. That’s different from Pandora’s model since its inception, which allows people to choose the genre but not specific songs.
The launch has been in the works for a long time, at least since last year, when Pandora acquired Rdio, a small streaming service, for its on-demand technology. Much of it appears to be used in Pandora Premium.
Earlier this fall, Pandora introduced an ad-free radio subscription service for $5 per month called Pandora Plus, but it doesn’t have the on-demand options of Premium.
A crowded field for Pandora
Pandora’s quite late to on-demand music. In addition to Spotify, the biggest player in the field, companies from Apple to Soundcloud to Google have their own paid, on-demand services.
The question is why choose one over another. Certainly music selection is one reason.
Pandora has a catalog of more than a million songs. But that’s way fewer than Apple Music and Spotify, which both have more than 30 million.
The service says it will set itself apart by relying on a huge library of data to make the experience more user-friendly. It will anticipate Premium users’ likes and dislikes and try to serve them songs they will enjoy.
But the other services argue this isn’t as important with an on-demand service, where you don’t have to listen to or skip the songs you don’t like.
Plus, Spotify’s free platform (you have to watch ads) lets people choose their music too. Though you get more bells and whistles with its paid subscription, there’s no obvious incentive beyond not having to listen to ads for free Spotify users to switch to Pandora’s paid service.
As Pandora readies the new service for a January roll-out, it’s also weighing an offer from SiriusXM, the second time the satellite radio service has made a bid for the online radio service.
Pandora has never been profitable, and unless it finds a way to become so, many believe it will have no choice but to be acquired.
However, that may not end up being SiriusXM. Months after Pandora first went on the block, it has apparently heard from others eager to acquire its technology and 78 million users.
Two possible suitors being speculated over: Spotify, which itself does not turn a consistent profit, and Google, which has music services through Google Play and YouTube Red.
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