Business News Deals Digital Top Stories

Sprint takes 33% stake in Tidal

By | Published on Tuesday 24 January 2017


Tidal countered all that renewed scrutiny of its user numbers yesterday by announcing that US phone company Sprint had taken a 33% stake in the streaming service and would be offering subscriptions to its 45 million customer base. As a sweetener, there will be exclusive content offered only to Sprint customers.

There have been rumours, of course, that Jay-Z wanted to sell off some or all of Tidal pretty much ever since the day he bought the streaming firm back in 2015; indeed Sprint was one of the first companies to be linked to such a deal.

Some reckoned that the hip hop mogul was increasingly keen to get rid of the digital business altogether, though a new backer will reduce the ongoing financial burden of the Tidal operation and could provide a new marketing push.

Certainly on the face of it, access to 45 million potential new customers is nice, and tel co bundles have helped other streaming platforms boost their user numbers in the past. Though, as some of those platforms have found, you can lead a mobile phone customer to the stream, but you can’t necessarily make them drink.

Exactly how Sprint customers will be presented with Tidal isn’t clear. The two companies have said that news on “exclusive offers and upcoming promotions” will be made available soon, suggesting that it won’t simply be that Sprint users get Tidal bundled in with their existing contracts automatically.

As well as all this, Sprint has also committed to set up a marketing fund for artists – though details of what that will involve are also unclear.

“Sprint shares our view of revolutionising the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential”, says Jay-Z of the deal. “Marcelo [Claure, Sprint CEO] understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience”.

Claure adds: “Jay saw not only a business need, but a cultural one, and put his heart and grit into building Tidal into a world-class music streaming platform that is unrivalled in quality and content. The passion and dedication that these artist-owners bring to fans will enable Sprint to offer new and existing customers access to exclusive content and entertainment experiences in a way no other service can”.

So, it’s bold talk all round. Tidal is good at bold talk though. What it’s less good at is signing up paying customers, its campaign of big name exclusives having failed to make it a significant contender against Spotify or Apple Music, regardless of which user figures you believe. As previously reported, Norwegian business paper Dagens Næringsliv recently claimed that the number of paying subscribers could be as low as 850,000.