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Report: First expansion of iTunes Radio coming in early 2014

updated 11:04 pm EDT, Mon October 7, 2013

English-speaking and Nordic countries in initial rollout plans

Apple is expected to make English-speaking and Nordic countries the first wave of its expansion of iTunes Radio into non-US countries, pulling ahead of main rival Pandora in terms of international reach, Bloomberg reports. Citing "people with knowledge of the situation," Apple expects to bring the new streaming-radio feature of iTunes to Canada, the UK, several Nordic countries, Australia and New Zealand in a timeframe said to be aimed for early 2014.

For various reasons, Pandora has never expanded much beyond the US, though it did add New Zealand and Australia just last December. Apple is said to have already negotiated international rights for most if not all of the big three music labels, making international expansion more a question of scaling up server load than rights issues, the latter of which have plagued Pandora because it relies on government-set standard rights and rates, rather than direct negotiations with music rights agencies. Pandora has been fighting the RIAA in the US over royalty payment rates for some time.

When iTunes Radio originally launched, Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue told the press he would like the company to expand the offering to "more than 100 countries," but has never provided a timeline on when Apple expects to accomplish this. The new iTunes Radio, part of iTunes 11.1 and iOS 7, creates custom or curated music stations based on the users' own library of songs and interests. It doesn't replace the existing iTunes library of streaming Internet-based radio stations, but offers listeners a customizable experience and one-stop ability to purchase songs heard on the "stations."

Though other services like Spotify, Rdio and others have also found audiences, Pandora is by far the most popular such service, with some 72 million listeners. However, iTunes Radio vaulted overnight into second place after more than 11 million users began using the service in the first five days it was available.

The service is also free (though ad-supported), like most of its competitors' most basic levels -- but unlike most of them, it offers unlimited listening for free, and an ad-free option if users pay the $25-per-year fee for Apple's "cloud music locker" iTunes Match service. This is far less than any of its competitors charge for premium service, and provides buyers with instant access to their entire music collections on mobile devices through cloud access.

Apple has not commented on the growth of iTunes Radio since the first five days, but is likely to mention it in its next quarterly report, due at the end of October. The company has also lined up major advertisers for its service, including Nissan, McDonald's, Pepsi and Proctor & Gamble. Apple has also already begun advertising for programmers for its Canadian version of iTunes Radio, hinting that it might launch the service in Canada and other countries earlier than next year if suitable candidates are found.

The company is also planning to use iTunes Radio to help promote sales in iTunes, using promotions such as free streaming album previews and celebrity "DJ" mixes. Currently on the US version, the new album from Miley Cyrus is available for free streaming and purchase. Katy Perry, Diplo and Jared Leto are offering playlists of selected tunes as guest DJs.




by MacNN Staff

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