Pandora will strike up its Spotify rival December 6

Pandora Premium will take on upstart rivals Spotify and Apple Music with the $10-a-month, on-demand music subscription it could never offer before.

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

Pandora will unveil its answer to Spotify and Apple Music later this year, rolling out a paid, on-demand service after more than a decade of digital radio that crimped skips and song choice.

The new service will be presented on December 6 at an event in New York and will roll out to consumers in the first three months of next year, the company said Tuesday.

Last month, the veteran digital radio company revamped its $5-a-month subscription into Pandora Plus, stripping out commercials and letting members listen offline. It also began letting all listeners -- even if they're listening free with ads -- skip more songs and replay tracks.

But the main event for Pandora has always been a planned launch of a fully on-demand service that competes with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.

Pandora Premium is a cornerstone of what Pandora hopes will be the company's rebirth. For more than a decade, Pandora's digital radio offered little control over what songs listeners heard. While Pandora battled the recording industry and rigid license rules, Spotify and Apple Music secured more modern deals that allowed listeners to hear whatever they wanted. The upstart on-demand services have grown at a breakneck pace, and Pandora began to stagnate. Spotify this year eclipsed Pandora in total listeners.

Tuesday, Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said Premium would be a full, interactive, on-demand service that will have all the features of Pandora Plus, as well as the ability to search for and play songs and to build playlists. It will have other features that the company will unveil at the launch of the service in New York in December.

While speaking at a presentation to analysts on Tuesday, Westergren predicted that Pandora would hit 11.3 million subscribers in 2020. Spotify and Apple Music, which are both widely available internationally, have 40 million and 17 million subscribers, respectively. Pandora operates only in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Chief Product Officer Chris Philips said that Pandora Plus, the $5-a-month option launched last month, has in two weeks racked up 250,000 conversions -- people who used to be free listeners but are now paying. That's a run-rate for 6.5 million members annually, but the momentum of memberships can ebb and flow.