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Pandora Wants to Add More Podcasts to Grow Listening Hours

Pandora is looking to add more non-music programming to its streaming service, said Chief Operating Officer Sarah Clements during Pandora’s Q2 earnings call Thursday. The company could use podcasts and other non-music content to retain and regain audiences, and further grow listening hours without the expenses that come with music licensing.

Pandora has already been experimenting a bit with non-music content in recent months. The company began to stream “This American Life” and “Serial” in November, and has since streamed a total of 20 million episodes of the two shows combined, according to Clemens.

“Half of Pandora users are already consuming non‐music content weekly on alternate platforms,” she said. Pandora views this as incremental listening, since people tune into non-music programming during different hours of the day than into music stations. What she didn’t say is that podcasts are often a lot cheaper for streaming services, since they don’t require royalty payments to music rights holders — something that has been eating up a good chunk of Pandora’s revenue.

The company generated $343 million in revenue during the quarter ending on June 30, compared to $285.6 million in revenue during the same quarter a year ago. But with high licensing costs as well as significant investments into new and still-unlaunched services, Pandora is also continuing to lose money. Net losses came in at $76.3 million compared $16.1 million for Q2 of 2015.

Listening hours grew to a total of 5.66 billion for the quarter, growing 7 percent year-over-year, but monthly active listeners declined slightly to 78.1 million, down from 79.4 million.

Pandora’s continued losses have led to talks about a potential sale of the company. Earlier on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei had floated an acquisition at a price of $15 a share, an idea that Pandora’s board apparently rejected.

Pandora is looking to launch an on-demand music streaming service that more directly competes with Apple Music and Spotify later this year. Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said Thursday that the company is still in negotiations with record labels, which he called “very productive.”

Pandora is building this new service with the team and assets from Rdio, the streaming service that it acquired late last year. “The product is really coming together,” Westergren said.

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