May 22, 2015

    Spotify to offer original and video content


    STREAMING leader Spotify on Wednesday announced an expansion into video and original content, reaching beyond music as the company faces challenges to its dominance and strives to turn a profit.

    Spotify, by far the largest company in the booming streaming industry, said it wanted to turn into a broader and more personalised platform to bring in subscribers throughout the day.

    The upgraded Spotify platform will, for the first time, support videos and offer news and other non-music content provided by major media companies.

    Daniel Ek, founder and chief executive of the eight-year-old Swedish company, said that Spotify was recognising the all-encompassing power of smartphones in modern life.

    Spotify's core mission remains music, but it wants to give users more incentives to turn to Spotify to read the news or watch videos as well, Mr Ek said.

    "There is an incredible opportunity to soundtrack your entire day - and your entire life - in all of its complexity," the 32-year-old entrepreneur told a launch event at a converted New York warehouse off the Hudson River.

    Mr Ek said that Spotify had partnered with a wide range of media companies including major United States networks, BBC, Vice and comedy network Adult Swim.

    While providing podcasts and other productions from media partners, Spotify said it also planned original content.

    In one of the more inventive features, Spotify unveiled a new function for runners that will detect motion through the smartphone and select music based on the pace.

    The music was directed by superstar Dutch DJ Tiesto, who said he faced an artistic challenge finding different speeds of beats for a full workout.

    Spotify will also make more recommendations based on listening habits, taking its cue from a popular feature on Internet radio leader Pandora.

    Mr Ek said the updated platform would be available immediately in the US, Britain, Germany and Sweden, and would be rolled out in the coming weeks to the 54 other countries and territories where Spotify is present.

    If successful, Spotify could not only hold strong against music rivals but also challenge video behemoth YouTube and Snapchat, the fast-growing video- and photo-sharing app.

    But for all its rapid growth, Spotify has yet to turn its major investments into profit. In filings this month, the company said that its net loss tripled to 162.3 million euros (S$240 million) last year.

    Mr Ek said the upgraded Spotify would offer more opportunities for targeted advertising and partnerships with companies.

    As of late last year, Spotify reported 60 million users. But three-quarters of them opted for a free tier of service, which is particularly controversial in the music industry.

    And the company is bracing itself for growing competition.

    Rap mogul Jay Z recently launched a redesigned Tidal, a streaming platform that offers higher-end audio files as well as video and exclusive content.

    Apple - long the giant of digital music through iTunes - is expected to unveil an updated streaming service soon.

    Rdio this month unveiled a subscription of US$4 (S$5) per month, undercutting Spotify's US$9.99 for its advertisement-free premium service.

    Other competitors include Deezer, Rhapsody and Google Play.