Bloom.fm, a London-based streaming-music service that offers everything from access to free radio to song borrowing, believes Apple is scared of its operation.
Speaking to CNET on Friday, a Bloom.fm spokesman confirmed that the company's ad-spend on Apple's mobile-advertising platform iAd has been banned by the iPhone maker. The only suitable reason for that, the spokesman argues, is that Apple views its service as a threat.
"We were surprised at Apple's decision to ban us from their iAd network as their iTunes Radio service isn't even available in the UK," the spokesman told CNET. "Bloom.fm gives you 22 million tracks for £1 a month -- the price of a single download on iTunes -- so I can see why they'd want to protect their business."
Apple's online radio service, iTunes Radio, has quickly gained ground in the US since its launch last September, but it remains far behind the current leader in streaming radio, Pandora. iTunes Radio is not currently available in the UK, but is expected to launch in that market sometime this year. Apple's Bloom ouster might be priming the pump for its eventual iTunes Radio launch.
Bloom is a lesser-known streaming provider in the UK. The company provides free access to streaming radio stations and includes everything from playlist support to full iTunes Radio-like streaming. The company also has a borrowing feature that lets users borrow up to 20 songs per month for £1. After the month is up, they can no longer listen to the tracks without "borrowing" them again.
Bloom spent £2,000 per month on Apple's iAd network, promoting its service to iPhone, iPod, and iPad owners, according to a Guardian report. On Wednesday, however, Apple said that it could no longer advertise through its network. Bloom announced the news on its Twitter page, saying that Apple called its offering "a competitive service to iTunes Radio and it is against Apple policy."
By banning Bloom, however, Apple might have given the service more notoriety than it otherwise had. Bloom has a million registered users, making it substantially smaller than services like Pandora or Spotify. But Apple has put Bloom in front of more people, which could help the service grow.
Not surprisingly, Bloom seems pleased by the attention it's getting. On Wednesday, the company sarcastically tweeted that Apple's move must mean the company is "big time now." The company told CNET on Friday that the iAd ban is "flattering."
"[Apple's] decision isn't going to affect our growth and it's actually quite flattering they see us as such a threat," the spokesman said.
The iAd ban might not affect Bloom's own advertising budget. Depending on the company's plans, it's possible that the Bloom ads could come back to Apple devices through alternative mobile-ad services like Google's AdMob.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment on Bloom. We will update this story when we have more information.