Pandora’s October audience metrics vs. the recent study of iTunes Radio threat

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Issue Date: 
Nov 5 2013 - 11:50am

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Pandora released disclosed its audience metrics for October last night (see RAIN coverage here). The much-watched measurement of “active listeners” slipped 2.5% from September, from 72.7-million to 70.9-million. That metric is significant for the first full month in which Pandora and iTunes Radio operated concurrently. We wanted to circle back with Michael Graham of Cannacord Genuity, who authored a study of the near-term threat that iTunes Radio posed to Pandora. (See our original interview here.) Graham predicted that Pandora risked losing one percent of its listeners to iTunes Radio.

This morning we asked Graham how the just-released October numbers match up with the research prediction. His response: 

We were a little surprised by how many active listeners we lost, but were also surprised by how strong the listening hours were. The drop-off in listeners is more than we estimated might happen. The part we didn’t predict is this: [Pandora] lost a large number of low-engagement iOS users who, we believe, were added more recently, then decided to try iTunes Radio. We believe this because the average number of hours per active listener expanded sharply, from 18.8 during September to 20.5 during October. Part of that can be explained by the listener cap on mobile coming off. But the bigger part is likely that the listeners who went over to iTunes Radio were low-hours listeners. We believe that the overall number of listening hours is in good shape."

A research note from Cannacord Genuity in response to Pandora’s metrics also mentions non-iOS Pandora use: “We are somewhat surprised at the 1.8 million sequential decline in active listeners. That said, we believe growth from Android listeners was strong, and we believe the company may be seeing some stabilization on the iOS side already.”

(Graham is an analyst for the investment firm Cannacord Genuity, and he discloses that the company is bullish on Pandora. Research on this topic supports the company’s Buy recommendation.)

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