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Pandora Shares Surge as Fourth-Quarter Subscription Revenue Climbs 63%

Pandora reported mixed financial results for the fourth quarter of 2017, but its shares jumped more than 9 percent after it reported a substantial growth in subscription revenue.

The company reported a 63% increase in subscription revenue, bringing its yearly total to $97.7 million. It also reported 5.48 million subscribers, up 25% year over year, and CFO Naveen Chopra said on an earnings call Wednesday that 300,000 subscribers were added in the fourth quarter — and noted that tally does not include trial subscriptions.

It also reported a savings of $45 million resulting from “an organizational restructuring designed to prioritize its strategic growth initiatives and optimize overall business performance,” which was announced in January and included the layoff of 5% of its staff, and said it intends to direct those savings toward new growth initiatives like ad-tech, non-music content, device integration and marketing technology, and further develop its Premium Access (on-demand) services in response to competition from Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming companies.

On the earnings, call CEO Roger Lynch (pictured above) — who joined the company just six months ago — acknowledged ongoing challenges and said that it is “not going to bend the curve overnight,” but said it has made solid progress. He and Chopra used the word “bullish” several times during the call, stressing the company’s progress in reorganizing and its path to growth primarily via its recently launched Premium service, its strong advertising base and its ventures into non-music programming like podcasts and voice-activated speakers.

“We are the largest streaming audio provider in the U.S. and the largest publisher of digital advertising,” Lynch said. “Digital audio is on the verge of massive growth — we expect one out of every two people will have a connected device in their home by 2022.”

He spoke at length about the company’s Premium service. Asked by a reporter about the reasons why subscribers leave Pandora, Lynch cited surveys with former listeners who said that the absence of an on-demand music option was a major cause: “We solved that on December 19 when we launched Premium Access,” he said. “We plugged that hole.” He also promised to increase advertising and awareness around the Premium Service, as in previous interviews he has said that the company’s messaging around that service could be stronger.

He spoke about the company’s strengths in advertising, noting that the data it possesses on “hundreds of millions of users in the U.S.” can be used for marketing technologies, furthering his goal of “personalized marketing at scale” as a concept for what they plan to do in the future. He also said the company will be increasing its presence in Atlanta, which is not only one of the country’s strongest music cities but also provides less-expensive talent pool than its base in the San Francisco Bay Area.

According to a press release, for the quarter, the total consolidated revenue was $395.3 million, an approximate 7% year-over-year increase compared to the year-ago quarter, excluding Australia, New Zealand and Ticketfly (last year, the company discontinued its operations in those countries, and sold the ticketing company at a loss). It had 74.7 million active listeners at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017.

For the full year 2017, consolidated total revenue was $1.467 billion, a 6% year-over-year increase. This included ticketing revenue of $76.0 million from the period. Excluding revenue from Australia, New Zealand and Ticketfly, full year 2017 revenue was $1.385 billion, an 8% year-over-year increase. This included advertising revenue of $1.071 billion and subscription and other revenue of $314.3 million.


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