Can Programmatic Ads Save Spotify?

Summary: According to Q3 earnings calls, Spotify may seek to broker user data in order to keep average revenue per user afloat. Known as programmatic advertising, this method of monetizing data to supplement music revenue may be Spotify’s only hope to stave off competitors who nip at the heels of the music-streaming app

Portions of this article were originally published September 27th, 2018 under 8 Reasons Spotify will be a Sell Recommendation by 2019 at $184 per share. This analysis has been updated to include the recent partnership with Google and programmatic offering Ad Studio.

Half Full or Half Empty? -6% ARPU in Q3 Compared to -12% ARPU in Q2

This quarter, Spotify’s average revenue per user percentage has improved but QoQ growth is still in the red. Average revenue per user declined to $5.50 in Q3 from $5.83 in Q2, or -6% following -12% the previous quarter.

Costly Partnership with Google

Spotify’s new strategy is to partner with Google to offer free Google Home Mini speakers to users who subscribe to the Family plan as part of a holiday season promotion. The partnership comes at a cost of approximately 50 basis points to the Gross Margin profile in Q4, the company noted. From Google’s standpoint, they get their entry level smart speaker into more homes, while Spotify benefits by having a partner for smart home infrastructure. Ultimately, this is one example of the lengths Spotify will have to go to in order to compete with Apple and Amazon on their home turf.

Apple has Homefield Advantage

In fact, the turf war has already receded Spotify’s market share. Record industry sources state Apple is adding paying subscribers at a rate of 5 percent in the U.S. versus 2 percent for Spotify, and that Apple Music may have already taken over Spotify as the number one streaming service in the United States.

In addition, Apple was cleared to complete the acquisition for UK-based music recognition app Shazam Entertainment for $400 million. Due to the threat this poses to Spotify and other smaller apps, regulators in seven countries contested the acquisition when Apple’s plans were first announced. Despite these efforts, the acquisition was approved in August of 2018. To date, Shazam has had well over 1 billion downloads, last reported in 2016, and owns a wealth of information on what music is trending with over 20 million searches per day.

Tim Cook is a chief critic on how applications and websites use private data to increase the accuracy of targeted advertising. Therefore, one area Apple clearly won’t compete is in the brokering of programmatic ads based on users’ music choices. Meanwhile, Spotify has every intention of letting advertisers target its users through Ad Studio.

Spotify would not be the first mobile application to supplement its core product with a programmatic offering. Facebook and Twitter owe at least 1/6thto 1/4thof their current revenue to programmatic proving it can substantially increase average revenue per user. Therefore, if Ad Studio is executed correctly, it may have the potential to limit stock losses even with stiff competition from Apple and Amazon.

Here’s a statement from Spotify’s press release:

“Last quarter we said that we expected our Programmatic and self-serve products to become a significant portion of our Ad-Supported revenue. If we’re successful in achieving this shift in revenue mix, then we also expect to achieve significant operating leverage in the ad sales business, increasing our operating margins. Last quarter we reported on our new automated self-serve platform, Ad Studio, which is live in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Ad Studio revenues are still quite small, but we’re seeing exponential growth, so expect to hear more about this product in future quarterly updates.”

Note About Tencent Music IPO:

Conclusion

You can access more analysis on Spotify here.

This article and previous Spotify analysis written by Beth Kindig has been published on Seeking Alpha. All original analysis contained herein should be appropriately credited to Beth Kindig.

Originally published at beth.technology on November 2, 2018.

Senior Product Evangelist in data and security. All things #startups #mobile, #data #security and #IoT. Snowboarder, book worm.