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Sprint buys 33 percent stake in Tidal

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Sprint has acquired a 33% stake in music streaming service Tidal, the companies announced this morning. “Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” Jay Z said in a press release. “Marcelo understood our goal right away, and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.” Marcelo is Marcelo Claure, the chief executive of Sprint, who will join Tidal’s board. From The New York Times:

Jay Z bought Tidal two years ago for $56 million with a plan to lure customers with exclusive content by a group of star performers, and Tidal drew wide attention by offering early access to albums by Rihanna, Beyoncé and Mr. West. Exclusive content has become a major battleground in the music industry, with Apple also signing special deals with artists like Drake and Frank Ocean.

The deal may be an important lifeline for Tidal, which has remained an underdog in a field dominated by streaming giants like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora. Aspiro, the holding company for Tidal, lost $28 million in 2015, according to legal filings last year. The company’s accounts for 2016 have not yet been released.

And while Tidal has claimed more than three million subscribers, those numbers have consistently been doubted by music industry executives and industry analysts. Midia Research, a market research company, estimated this month that Tidal had only one million paying users, and a report in a Norwegian newspaper last week accused Tidal of inflating its subscriber count. Tidal has not responded to that report.

Sprint customers who are also Tidal subscribers will get additional, exclusive content, details TBA.

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