Blackberry chose Slacker, Best Buy picked Napster – recently there has been some interesting movement with major brands preparing to offer dedicated music services with their devices.
Blackberry devices will have a Slacker player and access to Slacker’s services. Slacker offers 100 channels of programmed internet radio, along with the ability to personalize your experience by rating songs. They’ve been portable for a while with their own device, but this agreement with Blackberry will greatly expand the service. It’s unclear whether Blackberry shares ad revenue with Slacker in this deal, but I suspect they get something for handing over all those listeners.
Best Buy announced this week that they plan to purchase Napster with plans to offer the service, with music downloads and Internet radio, along with all the portable devices that they sell. Napster’s a questionable partner, the name once belonged to the very popular illegal music download site, and was reborn when Roxio bought the name and created a legal service. According to the LATimes, Napster recently posted a quarterly loss and said its subscriber base shrank to 703,000 from 760,000. Revenue fell 6% to $30.3 million. So Best Buy pays $121 million for a familiar but tarnished name that’s losing money. The upside for Best Buy is that they already sell LOTS of portable devices, so why not channel the use of those devices into traffic they can benefit from.
Portable devices are a promised land for Internet radio, and the folks who make and sell those devices see that. With Blackberry and Best Buy pushing audience to Internet radio, awareness of the medium will grow, audience will grow. Listeners may start out listening within the walled garden that their devices put up, but they’ll also discover how to listen to other online services.