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Pandora Weighs Talk Radio as It Targets More Listeners in Cars

With Streaming Music Wars Only Getting Started, Another Field of Battle

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Pandora on a Mini dashboard.
Pandora on a Mini dashboard. Credit: Mini USA

Pandora Media, the biggest internet radio company, is considering expanding its programming beyond music to formats such as sports, news and talk as the service becomes more available in cars and can attract listeners on the road.

"Music's an important piece of radio listening in the car, but if there's a place where spoken word is also equally, and more important really, it's in the car," Pandora Chief Financial Officer Michael Herring said. He said it's too early to specify the content or timing.

Pandora, which makes money from ad sales and ad-free subscriptions, is looking to autos as one way to jump start growth as the number of active users stalls amid competition with Spotify, Apple and Google. The company's active listeners grew 7.5% to 76.4 million users in the second quarter compared with a rise of 30% a year earlier.

Cars may be a way to revive listener growth: During a conference call last week, Pandora executives pointed to the company's 7 million automobile users in the last quarter, up from 2.5 million a year earlier.

Mr. Herring cited Sirius XM Holdings, the satellite radio service that's distributed through automakers and broadcasts a wide range of content including Howard Stern and the National Football League.

"As the car becomes more important, thinking about other types of content that are important for the car becomes more critical," Mr. Herring said. "That's why Sirius spends so much money on Howard Stern, sports and news."

Pandora can be accessed in 33% of new cars in the U.S. while Sirius is installed in 71%, according to Corey Barrett, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Barrett projects Oakland, California-based Pandora to double its automobile users to 15 million by 2017.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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