updated 11:53 pm EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sighting adds to rumors that Apple plans multi-country but slow rollout
Fueling speculation that Apple may be planning to expand iTunes Radio to selected countries in the near future, tweets on Twitter have revealed that Apple's director of iAd services, Paul Wright, has been making the rounds of London media marketing and ad agencies where he is based. This follows claims by online radio service Bloom, which would be a competitor to iTunes Radio in the UK, that it was rebuffed from advertising on iAd, and a report of iTunes Radio briefly functioning in Ecuador.
When iTunes Radio launched in the US last October, media reports quoted Apple SVP Eddy Cue as saying that expansion would likely happen in "early 2014," but to date the company has only brought the ad-supported music service to one other country, Australia. Rumors have been circulating recently that a clutch of countries where iTunes was very successful -- Japan, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and perhaps a few others -- would be first in line to get iTunes Radio following Australia.
Yesterday, users in Ecuador reported that iTunes Radio was working for at least brief periods in that South American country, leading to suggestions that Apple may be planning to rollout a multi-country expansion announcement in the near future, which might include countries in the Latin American market. Brief tests of the service had previously been reported in the UK and Canada as well.
Wright, who is in charge of iAd promotions in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, is himself a former executive with OMD, one of the ad agencies he was spotted visiting. OMD has had a close working relationship with Apple in the past, and his colleague Hannah Allan revealed in her tweet that Wright was "walking [the agency] through" iAd and iTunes Radio integration, saying she "can't wait for that to hit the UK," which hints at a possible launch within weeks.
There have been rumblings that Apple is planning a significant overhaul of its iTunes offerings, particularly in light of the shifting of users towards mobile "jukebox" and "radio" solutions as well as subscription-based offerings. Apple's iTunes Radio has done pretty well for itself in its first seven months, climbing to third place in US digital streaming music services (just ahead of Spotify and behind ClearChannel's iHeartRadio). Unlike market leader Pandora or fourth-place Spotify, however, iTunes Radio is free of charge on its sole "tier" of service. It is ad-supported, but iTunes Match subscribers receive it without ads as a side benefit of membership in the $25 per year cloud-syncing iTunes add-on.
Apple's iTunes Radio offers a combination of services. It features curated "stations," often featuring a celebrity DJ or showcasing new albums or the music of a particular artist or genre, and also offers the ability for users to create their own "stations" by selecting songs they like and setting a preference somewhere between "hits" (just familiar songs) and "discovery" (introducing similar artists) and offering the ability to favorite or banish songs and skip ahead to a limited degree.
Part of the reforms likely to be headed iTunes' way is said to be the option of "breaking out" iTunes Radio as its own app rather than being incorporated directly into iTunes (or the Music app on iOS 7) itself. This change could happen as early as the release of iOS 8, which is expected sometime late in the year.