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TuneIn takes Alexa out to the ballgame with premium radio

For a few bucks a month, TuneIn Live will let you ask Alexa to play news, talk radio and play-by-play broadcasts from the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and more.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Thursday is opening day for Major League Baseball, and the internet radio platform TuneIn is celebrating with the launch of TuneIn Live, a new subscription radio service for Alexa-enabled smart speakers. With it, you'll be able to ask Alexa to stream play-by-play broadcasts from the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL along with premium news content and talk radio -- "virtually any live sporting event or news broadcast," according to Rob Pulciani, director, Amazon Alexa.

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For a few bucks a month, TuneIn Live promises to deliver "virtually any sporting event or news broadcast" via Alexa.

Chris Monroe/CNET

To get started, just ask Alexa to open TuneIn Live, or say things such as, "Alexa, play the Cubs game" or "Alexa, turn on CNBC." All new customers will receive a free seven-day trial of the service -- the cost after that: $4 per month, or $3 per month for Amazon Prime members.

"There is such a time-honored connection between live radio and sports, baseball in particular," said Tony Archibong, TuneIn's vice president of distribution and business development. "To have Alexa as the first voice service to offer our premium content, and to be able to provide our extensive portfolio of live sports, breaking news and up-to-the-minute talk radio to Alexa customers, just in time for opening day, we could not be more excited."

TuneIn claims about 75 million active users across the globe, so it certainly has a base to build on here, and lots of overlap with the growing number of Alexa users, too. As one of Alexa's default audio services, Echo owners can already use TuneIn to stream thousands of free radio channels and play millions of podcasts. TuneIn claims that, within the speaker category alone, its users have listened to more than 1 billion hours of sports, news and talk programming through TuneIn over the past 12 months.

Spotify is still well out in front as far as users go, though, claiming about 160 million active monthly users globally, 70 million of them paying subscribers. I'll be interested to see if TuneIn's new focus on live sports radio does anything to help it close the gap.

For now, TuneIn Live is available for Alexa listeners in the US only. TuneIn's free radio service also supports Google Assistant smart speakers like the Google Home and Google Home Mini, but there's no word yet on when we should expect TuneIn Live to arrive for those devices, or for other platforms. A TuneIn representative tells me that the company "is open to working with Google and other platforms on extending this content to them in the future."

Editor's Note, 3/29/18, 12:20 PM EST: Corrected to reflect that TuneIn's claim of 75 million active users is based on global data, not US figures.