In their biggest move since stealing Verizon’s old spokesman, the “Can You Hear Me Now” Guy, Sprint takes another step towards competing with the more popular mobile companies like Verizon and AT&T. But instead of a new advertising campaign, the telecom company has entered a partnership with the Global music and entertainment platform TIDAL. Sprint, which recently acquired 33 percent of the music streaming company, will soon give their 45 million retail customers unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else.
Over the past few years telecom companies like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have made strong investments into the quickly growing popularity of streaming while Sprint has remained rather stagnate.
Verizon, for example, has invested billions of dollars to ramp up its media business, and specifically, bring new content to its mobile video streaming service, go90. Within the past couple years Verizon has not only purchased AOL for $4.4 billion, acquired a 24.5 percent stake in the digital entertainment network AwesomenessTV, and launched a co-venture with Hearst, but it also struck a deal with the NBA and NFL that allows them to stream games through their mobile streaming service.
And with AT&T making big plays of its own, like the acquisition of Fullscreen and the Launch of Direct TV Now, two streaming services that offer premium content programming, its been unclear how Sprint intended to stay relevant. But this new deal may finally put the telecom company in the competitive arena.
The partnership with TIDAL, which is owned in part by Jay-Z, hopes to grow customers on both platforms by offering exclusive access for customers who subscribe to TIDAL. Sprint’s chief executive officer Marcelo Claure will also join TIDAL’s Board of Directors, however, Jay Z and Tidal’s other artist owners will continue to run the service.
“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” said JAY Z. “Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”
It’s a step in the right direction for Sprint, but the one downfall may be the unpopularity of Tidal, which soon after being obtained by Jay-z, has been the subject of speculation that it would fail or be subsumed by a deep-pocket competitor like Apple.
“Tidal has struggled to make a dent in the streaming market and has shallower pockets than Spotify, Apple or Amazon,” Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Midia Research, told the NY Times. “The Sprint deal gives it access to a big customer base, free marketing and a war chest to take on the streaming incumbents.”
The arrangement injects some needed innovation into the way Sprint conducts business in a ever-growing world of streaming services, and the investment allows Tidal, at least for now, to remain an underdog in a streaming market that has become dominated by giants.
This new deal won’t make Sprint the top dog of mobile companies over night, but it’s a step in the right direction towards no longer being forgotten.