Pandora relaunched its $5 subscription plan Thursday, adding song replays, additional skips and offline playback to its ad-free personalized radio service on mobile devices. The company also brought some of these features to its free service, giving users the chance to unlock functionality for watching ads.
Pandora has offered consumers a paid plan dubbed Pandora One for years, which primarily offered ad-free listening as well as an increased number of skippable songs per day. The company is now rebranding this plan as Pandora Plus, and adding the ability to replay any song during playback as well as even more skips.
But the biggest news is that Pandora is giving paying customers offline playback. Pandora’s mobile app will automatically download songs from the four most-used personalized stations and play them whenever a user chooses to go offline, for example during a flight. What’s more, playback will automatically switch to one of those cached stations if there’s ever an interruption during normal usage, for example while driving through a tunnel.
Pandora VP of Product Chris Becherer didn’t reveal how many songs the app is caching at any given time, but said that it would feel very much like listening while online. “This is not a watered-down experience,” he told Variety.
Pandora also added a new way to unlock skips and replays to the free listening experience. Users can at any point elect to watch a short video ad to then replay a song, or skip additional songs if they’ve already exhausted all their free skips. Each ad gets them “a handful” of skips or replays, after which they’ll have to watch another one, according to Becherer.
The relaunch of Pandora’s paid tier comes just days after the company struck licensing deals with Sony Music, the Universal Music Group and indie label distributor Merlin to launch a full-fledged subscription service similar to the paid plans of Spotify and Apple Music. The company has yet to announce a similar agreement with Warner Music.
So why launch Pandora Plus now, and not wait until the company has all ducks lined up? “We had this ready to go,” said Pandora’s Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips.