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Deezer buys Stitcher, a stab at marrying talk and tunes online

The Spotify rival acquires the Pandora of talk radio, aiming to set itself apart from bigger competitors as it makes a quiet entrance into the US.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Deezer has racked up millions of subscribers internationally but is looking for ways to differentiate itself as it enters a competitive US market. Deezer

Deezer bought talk-radio and podcast app Stitcher, the company said Friday, as it targets the "talk" segment overlooked by other, bigger streaming-music rivals in the US.

Financial terms of the deal were not released. Tyler Goldman, Deezer's chief executive for North America, said in an interview that Deezer will continue to invest in Stitcher following the "significant investment" that Stitcher has already made in itself.

San Francisco-based Stitcher, which describes itself as the Pandora of talk, has 35,000 radio shows and podcasts that listeners can hear on their computers or on mobile devices through iOS and Android apps. Deezer said it will continue to support Stitcher's standalone apps while also integrating the company's capabilities into its own service.

Streaming-music competition is fierce in the US, but few players are trying to hit the right notes in both tunes and talk. Because "talk content" -- interviews, news reports and podcasts, for example -- is unique in how it is licensed and programmed as compared with music, most streaming services have kept talk on the sidelines to make music the star. Still, talk represents about a third of terrestrial radio listening and podcasts are heard by about 30 percent of Americans.

Paris-based Deezer, which has built up a competitive number of subscribers internationally, is just now entering the US, the world's biggest music market. By acquiring Stitcher, Deezer has set its sights on becoming the best to combine music and talk programming, something to set itself apart as it tries to catch up with US rivals like Spotify, Apple's Beats Music and -- in the car -- Sirius XM satellite radio.

"Almost all our users listen to talk, so it makes sense to add that content to our offering," Goldman said. "What's most surprising is that other people haven't done anything other than offer music."

In the US, streaming-music services like Spotify and Pandora have kept most of their focus on music, while fewer, smaller services like TuneIn are online spots to find more talk. iHeart Radio, the streaming arm of terrestrial radio giant iHeart Media (until recently known as Clear Channel), is one of the few streaming services with a large user base that has a significant amount of both types of content.

Stitcher has more than a million monthly active users, Goldman said. Deezer's stats note that it notches 16 million monthly active listeners and has 5 million paying subscribers globally. While virtually all of Deezer's subscribers are outside the US, Goldman said he sees the acquisition as a way not only to attract US listeners but also to adapt Stitcher's data, programming and talk-content recommendation skills to Deezer's services abroad. Stitcher has a predominantly US audience -- most of its content is in English -- and Goldman said 85 percent of Stitcher listening hours are in the States.

He added that Deezer will be bringing on the whole Stitcher team, more than 20 people.

Updated at 7:30 a.m. PT with executive comments and further details.