Every time payday rolls around, people deduct necessities such as rent and mortgage payments, groceries, and utilities. Even with a longer list of expenses, some consumers are fortunate enough to have extra cash to spend on entertainment. Options are numerous and expensive in today’s world of tech, but with an internet connection comes the golden ticket of music that is Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P). It is an extremely popular service, but competition is everywhere.
Sounds of Sharing
Nearly fifteen years ago, I built up my high level of patience by waiting for my dial-up connection to download songs from Napster, discovering generations of music without leaving my computer chair. Peer to peer sharing clones followed, but eventually this world of free music was dead (temporarily of course).
Many millennial college graduates aren’t strangers to file-sharing programs that operate within university servers. If those don’t work, public choices include torrents, websites such as freshnewtracks, links on social networks, and YouTube file converters. In my experience, some of these sites are deemed unsafe by Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Chrome browser, so I stay away. However, a superior alternative has arrived in the form of internet radio.
According to analysis firm Trefis, advertisements account for nearly 78% of Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P)’s stock price. Other than a short interruption in listening every five songs or so, it costs nothing to the user. As of April 2013, Pandora had 200 million registered users for its “Music Genome Project,” which consists of over 800,000 songs from over 80,000 artists. Even with this pool of selection, some choose to pay for a premium account, which offers an ad-free experience with higher sound quality.
Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) may not be an ideal investment yet (it’s cash flow is negative), but the concept and delivery is promising. Mobile device streaming is growing along with mobile advertising, which are both aided by the fact that smartphone sales are expected to exceed 1 billion in 2013. Finally, with the automobile industry looking up, Pandora has formed relationships with companies such as Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) to expand listening to the road.
The Best Radio on Radio
Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) can’t be mentioned without a discussion of my favorite entertainment service, Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI). I am one of the lucky ones to have a lifetime subscription, which has long been scrapped, but at the time cost me a one-time fee of $500. Without that deal, the monthly rate sits at about $15, but less if service is purchased for a year or longer. Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) features outstanding programming, but for potential new subscribers it can be daunting to fork out cash when music is available from endless providers for free or at a less expensive price.
However, Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) offers more than music and has established itself as the best, which is a point of interest when considering the 50 million shares traded per month, according to Morningstar. The stock has made an incredible run from a little more than a dime to well over $3 per share, but many fear growth will hit a wall. There are ad-based competitors beyond Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) that pose as threats, and now Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) have entered the fray with All Access and iTunes Radio, respectively. Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) has the opportunity to continue expansion to mobile platforms, car manufacturers, and maintain its programming quality with its $700 million in free cash flow. If the company can continue to innovate, investors may be rewarded. Until then, I will enjoy the music but stay on the sidelines as an investor.