Pandora hooks international Xbox exec as strategy chief

The Internet's biggest radio service hires Sara Clemens, a former Microsoft executive with lots of international credentials on her resume, as its chief strategy officer.

For its next strategy chief, Pandora Media has hired an executive who helped spur Xbox from power gaming console to an international multimedia hub.

Pandora, the operator of the Web's top radio service, said Monday it hired Sara Clemens as its chief strategy officer. Her responsibilities will be to lead the company's ongoing business strategy, corporate development, and international expansion efforts, and she will report to Chief Executive Brian McAndrews, who himself joined Pandora last year.

Pandora founder Tim Westergren previously held the title of chief strategy officer. A Pandora spokeswoman said Westergren's title was shifted simply to founder while he "continues to be a critical part of the management team."

Also Monday, Pandora said it hired Kristen Robinson in the newly created role of chief human resources officer, to lead that division of Pandora's operations in global offices.

Robinson's role and the hiring of Clemens especially point to Pandora's focus on two ambitions -- one attainable, one less so -- that the online radio company has long held. The first is broad device integration, or making Pandora accessible on every device and in every location people could want to listen to music. It's an arms race with every other music streamer to stay competitive that has led to services like Pandora being available not only on desktops, tablets, and phones but also on smart TVs and in cars.

The second is international expansion, which is trickier for Pandora to achieve. Pandora licenses music through a US statute set up for digital radio, rather than through direct deals with music labels as rivals Spotify and iTunes Radio pursued. Though Pandora's route simplifies the process for getting music, it makes it difficult to expand abroad, where it can't rely on statutes for access to songs. So far, its only international markets are Australia and New Zealand.

Clemens most recently acted as "executive in residence" at venture capital firm Greylock Partners for six months, following a year as a corporate development vice president at LinkedIn.

Before that, she spent five years at Microsoft, capped by her stint as strategy and development head of its interactive entertainment business. There, she led the business development, international expansion, and M&A deals for the Xbox division, helping to expand Xbox into a mass-market entertainment platform.

Pandora also touted her experience building businesses across a broad range of international markets, including Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East, and Greater Asia Pacific.

In a statement, Clemens highlighted Pandora's leadership in making money off Internet radio and its "deep business relationships and unmatched user base." Clemens also said she's looking forward to "the next chapter of Pandora's incredible growth story."

Pandora has prided itself in continuing to grow while new rivals like Spotify, iTunes Radio, and Beats Music crop up and grow. The company has leveraged its resilient listening stats to carefully cultivate its ad-sales operation unlike any other online music service, adding local sales forces and introducing more and different kinds of ads.

However, the growth of rivals abroad while Pandora sits on the sidelines internationally is a continual counterweight to the company's leadership position domestically.

Update, 9:35 a.m. PT: With Pandora response about founder's role.

 

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