Pandora Chief: We're Not Afraid of Competition From Apple

6:13 PM PST 01/07/2013 by Paul Bond
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Joe Kennedy

It would be "suicidal for Apple to remove Pandora from its platforms," says Joe Kennedy, CEO of the Internet radio company.

Pandora isn’t afraid of competition from Apple, assuming the tech giant chooses to delve into Internet radio as some have predicted.

“We have made Pandora a de facto must-have for any Internet-connected device,” Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy said Monday at an investor conference where he was asked if Apple would consider yanking Pandora from iPads and such if it creates a competing music service.

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“I don’t think we have any fear of losing distribution on any of the IOS platforms,” Kennedy said. “That would be suicidal for Apple to remove Pandora from its platforms. That would probably be the greatest gift they could give to Google and Samsung. So, if Apple were to do something, they’d have to compete with us straight up.”

Kennedy was speaking Monday at the Citi Global Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas.

Kennedy also said that Pandora’s singular focus is on music, so investors and consumers shouldn’t expect the company to make any Howard Stern-like hires, as comedy and other spoken-word content isn’t in the cards for Pandora, at least not anytime soon.

Kennedy also boasted that listener hours soared 54 percent in December compared with the same month a year earlier, to 1.39 billion, and Pandora’s share of total U.S. radio listening increased to 7.19 percent from 4.71 percent a year ago. Active listeners were up 41 percent to 67.1 million.

Still, there’s a huge opportunity in cars, where only 1 million people have so far tuned in to Pandora, Kennedy said.

“Fundamentally, the Internet is just beginning to reach all of those places where consumers historically listen to radio. Almost half of all radio listening is historically in the car,” Kennedy said.

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“A million is a pretty good milestone,” Kennedy said. “Obviously, given our scale of 67 million regular listeners, that’s still a relatively small piece of the puzzle. But that is a snowball that will continue to grow and continue to grow and become material in some number of years.”

Pandora is made available in about 85 models that are manufactured by 19 of the top U.S. automotive brands, in addition to there being 175 aftermarket devices available thus far for putting the Pandora service in vehicles.

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