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Pandora revamps premium radio offering, confirms Warner Music deal

By and | Published on Friday 16 September 2016


US streaming firm Pandora has, as expected, launched a revamped version of its existing premium tier, ahead of unveiling its planned fully on-demand paid-for service later this year. For $4.99 per month, users will get access to ad-free personalised radio, with more skips, replays and offline listening. Roll up everybody, roll up.

Pandora has long offered a paid-for option, the removal of ads and increased track skipping being the main sell. However, the vast majority of the company’s subscribers use the free version of the service. But Pandora, of course, is keen to diversify its revenues, seemingly convinced that relying on advertising money alone is not a sound business model.

Part of that plan involves launching the Spotify-style fully on-demand set up, which is more expensive to run, but where the standard price point is $10 a month. But that will involve going head to head with Spotify and Apple Music, and even the successful on-demand streaming services are yet to reach sufficient scale to be profitable. Therefore, a more sophisticated personalised radio service at a lower price point might actually have more potential, possibly being attractive to a whole different demographic.

Though Pandora hasn’t done a particularly good job in selling that very product to that whole different demographic in the past, so the question is, will this revamp and renewed marketing push help secure the firm loads of extra sign-ups? Rebranding what was Pandora One as Pandora Plus, that’ll help, right?

“We’re always delighting our listeners through continuous innovation and a relentless focus on simplicity and ease of use”, said Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips while confirming the revamp of the $5 a month service yesterday, with the new offline listening functionality at the top of his innovation list. “For example, our new predictive offline mode automatically detects when you lose signal and switches to one of your top stations that Pandora knows you love. No effort required. It just keeps playing”.

Noting all those fun time changes, plus the introduction of video ads on the free level, because that’s what ad agency twonks like, Pandora boss Tim Westergren said: “We’re methodically and passionately developing the world’s most personal music experience. And that includes flexibility in how you listen and what you pay for it. Whether a listener wants to take advantage of our enhanced ad-supported experience, our groundbreaking subscription radio service, or our fully interactive on-demand option coming later this year, we have a solution tailored for you at a price point you can afford”.

Hey, so that’s a proper confirmation of the on-demand thing. As previously reported, getting that off the ground has required Pandora to do direct deals with the record companies, rather than relying on the American compulsory licence administered by SoundExchange, which doesn’t apply to fully on-demand streaming. The firm confirmed it now had Sony Music, Universal Music, Merlin and a bunch of indie label distributors on board for all that earlier this week, and yesterday it was announced hold-out Warner Music was now also on board.

Meanwhile, all that upgraded personalised radio stuff is available for each and every personalised radio fan in the US right now. Users in Australia and New Zealand will have to wait until next year I’m afraid, because they’re a long way away and all the refinements are currently in a boat heading south. As for the rest of us? Well, who knows when we’ll get some Pandora goodness? But won’t it be a jolly jape to wait and see?