Pandora Ending Operations in New Zealand and Australia as CEO Steps Down

Popular streaming radio service Pandora plans to stop offering its service in New Zealand and Australia, a spokesperson told Billboard this afternoon. Australia and New Zealand are currently the only non-U.S. locations where the company operates, and Pandora has decided to focus its business solely on the United States.
A Pandora spokesperson told Billboard that after much analysis, it was decided to discontinue operations in the two countries over the next few weeks. "While our experience in these markets reinforces the broader global opportunity long-term, in the short-term we must remain laser-focused on the expansion of our core business in the United States," the rep said.
Pandora plans to begin shutting down operations in the two countries over the course of the next few weeks, which means its international offices in those locations will be shuttered. Pandora has somewhere around 5 million listeners in Australia and New Zealand, and it employs approximately 60 people at its offices in Australia.


As Pandora prepares to pull out of Australia and New Zealand, Pandora founder Tim Westergren today stepped down from his position as CEO, also exiting the company's board of directors. Pandora president Mike Herring and CMO Nick Bartle are also leaving the company.

In a statement, Westergren, who has twice left his role as CEO over the years, said Pandora is "perfectly poised for its next chapter." Under his leadership, Pandora launched its "Pandora Premium" on-demand streaming service and got a major investment from SiriusXM.
Westergren said, "I am incredibly proud of the company we have built. We invented a whole new way of enjoying and discovering music and in doing so, forever changed the listening experience for millions. I came back to the CEO role last year to drive transformation across the business. We accomplished far more than we anticipated. We rebuilt Pandora's relationships with the music industry; launched a fantastic Premium on-demand service, and brought a host of tech innovations to our advertising business. With these in place, plus a strengthened balance sheet, I believe Pandora is perfectly poised for its next chapter."
As of Q1 2017 [PDF], Pandora had 4.71 million subscribers across its Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium subscription options, and more than 80 million active users. Until March, Pandora didn't offer a service that competed with Apple Music, but Pandora Premium is seeing significant early interest, with 500,000 trial subscriptions during its first weeks of availability.

Apple Music now has more than 27 million subscribers, a new number shared by Apple on June 5.

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SiriusXM Again Having ‘Active Discussions’ to Acquire Pandora

Broadcasting company SiriusXM Satellite Radio is having "active discussions" about the potential acquisition of internet radio company Pandora, after previously showing interest in bidding for Pandora last year. After those talks stalled, The New York Post is now reporting that SiriusXM is reigniting its interest in Pandora, which would grant the company access to Pandora's online radio service and the just-launched on-demand "Premium" streaming service.

Pandora Premium itself is the result of the company's acquisition of key assets and employees who worked for Rdio, which Pandora acquired in 2015. The $9.99/month service is a competitor to Apple Music and Spotify, giving listeners access to a large on-demand library, playlist creation, unlimited skips, and no ads, unlike Pandora's base radio service.

Pandora's new on-demand service, Pandora Premium
Liberty Media-backed SiriusXM is in active discussions about making a bid for internet radio company Pandora, The Post has learned.

The New York satellite radio company, which has exhibited on-and-off interest in the struggling streamer, has recently restarted talks with Pandora’s banks and is discussing the size of a potential offer, sources said.
According to Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry, the music industry is currently focused on the "increasingly competitive environment in streaming music," so SiriusXM might be interested in acquiring Pandora to help beef up its Premium streaming service and compete more directly with Apple Music and Sirius, which are both above 20 million and 50 million paid subscribers, respectively. Since the trial period opened in March, Pandora Premium has reported 1.3 million sign-ups for the streaming service.

The specific number of those users who continued to pay for Premium was not disclosed, but the company saw a 6 percent revenue uptick in the first quarter. Its total active listeners nevertheless decreased to 76.7 million from 79.4 million in the year-ago quarter. Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren hoped to keep Pandora away from a sale, but two of its largest shareholders -- Corvex Management and Matrix Capital Management -- have repeatedly pushed the company in that direction.

According to sources familiar with the talks between the two companies, no price has yet to be agreed upon but bids could range between $12 and $13 per share, while other sources "immediately shot down" those estimations. Greg Maffe, the CEO of SiriusXM parent company Liberty Media, has said previously he believes Pandora to be worth $10 per share. On Wednesday, Pandora's shares closed at $8.93.


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Pandora Previews Apple Music and Spotify Competitor ‘Premium’

Pandora previewed its long-awaited Apple Music and Spotify competitor today at a special event with select publications. The new service is called Pandora Premium, and will launch in early 2017 with a likely price of $9.99 per month, reports Engadget.

pandorapremium
The new app offers on-demand access to a large music library and looks a lot like Rdio. In November, Pandora announced that it had acquired "key assets" and employees from Rdio. Like other services, Pandora Premium will also allow users to save music offline and experience ad-free listening, reports The Verge.

Pandora CEO Tim Westergen thinks the company has created the "first truly premium music service." For Pandora, a premium music service means a personal music service, and the company hopes to leverage its trove of listening data and the Music Genome Project to offer each customer a personalized music service.

For instance, Pandora Premium features personalized search, which means each user will get different music results based on their listening history rather than overall popularity. The browse and new release sections of the app will also be personalized based on user taste. Smart playlists will allow users to easily add new songs with a touch of a button, and in some cases Pandora will automatically add songs for you.

The app will also change color based on the album artwork of the song you're currently listening to, and every song you like will be added to a giant playlist made up of every song you've ever liked on Pandora. When a user has reached the end of a playlist or album, Pandora Premium will offer a radio station based on the finished playlist or album to keep the music going.

Overall, Engadget notes that the new service marries Rdio's interface and features with Pandora's extensive music knowledge. Pandora says the service will begin rolling out in the first quarter of 2017, but won't commit to whether the service will cost $9.99 like similar music streaming services.

Pandora Premium gives Pandora three music offerings at different price points: the basic, ad-supported radio streaming service, the $4.99 per month Pandora Plus, an ad-free streaming service, and the on-demand newly announced Pandora Premium.


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Pandora’s new premium service will focus on personalization

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Pandora just offered an early look at its upcoming on-demand streaming service called Pandora Premium, and it looks like it’ll be focusing on personalization to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded space.

Pandora had previously confirmed it would release its own on-demand service. With the official launch not for at least a few more weeks, CEO Tim Westergren showed off the company’s new music service during an event in New York Tuesday, multiple outlets reported.

The upcoming service will take each user’s history into account, so that all the songs you have previously liked on Pandora’s Internet radio service will impact the recommendations you get on the new Premium tier, Engadget reportedRead more…

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Woman shuts down saleswoman who called her $130 engagement ring ‘pathetic’

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When it comes to love, it’s not about the money.

Quinn and Ariel McRae dated for two years before tying the knot. But a saleswoman where the couple bought Ariel’s rings tried to put a damper on the festivities by calling the jewelry “pathetic.”

“My husband doesn’t have a lot, neither of us do,” McRae explained in a Facebook post about the encounter. “We scrape and scrape to pay bills and put food in our bellies, but after almost 2 years of dating we decided that we couldn’t wait anymore, so we didn’t.”

“I wasn’t even thinking about rings, I just wanted to marry my best friend,” she continued, “But he wouldn’t have it. He scraped up just enough money to buy me two matching rings from Pandora.” Read more…

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iHeartRadio’s new streaming options let you choose a song, then return to the radio

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iHeartRadio’s entry into the crowded on-demand music streaming market will stay true to its roots. 

The company’s new streaming services, iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access, will incorporate on-demand listening into radio stations. 

“Spotify is digitized CDs,” iHeartRadio President Darren Davis told Mashable. “Our ancestor is radio.” 

The services, announced in September, let users play regular radio or custom and artist stations. From there, users can replay songs. When a replay ends, they will be redirected back to the live or custom radio station. 

While listening to Z100, for example, you could save or replay a song before going back to whatever’s on the air:  Read more…

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