Sprint wants in on the streaming music game, so it just bought 33% of Tidal. The deal gives Sprint access to what they’re calling exclusive content available only to their subscribers, and it gives Tidal the financial boost it’s been looking for.
Both companies are hyping the purchase as a huge deal for streaming music and cell service saying, “The formidable pairing of Sprint and Tidal will grow customers on both platforms by offering exclusive access for customers who subscribe to Tidal.”
Considering Tidal’s marketshare compared to Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, “formidable” may be a bit of an overstatement. Still, the deal may prove beneficial for both companies. For Sprint, it’s another perk it can use to help draw in new subscribers, and Tidal gets fresh money along with a Spring-funded dedicated marketing program for artists.
Tidal launched ahead of Apple Music in 2015 with the promise of higher quality streaming audio files and a friendlier relationship with artists. The service launched with a US$20 a month plan, but quickly added a $10 option with audio quality matching Spotify and Apple Music.
Ultimately, the only thing really setting Tidal apart from other streaming music services was its exclusive content deals. Those deals didn’t, however, always stay exclusive which led to unhappy customers.
Tidal is run by Jay Z and is partly owned by other artists such as Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys. Sprint said Jay Z will continue to run the streaming music service, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will join the board of directors.
Tidal’s Pre-Sprint Drama
Tidal’s history has been something of a soap opera ever since its 2015 launch. The CEO left after only three months, it was hit with a lawsuit months later over claims it wasn’t paying royalties, and its promise of exclusive content has proven false upon occasion, too.
The company also had to deal with bad press when Kanye West publicly slammed Apple Music saying his work would never be available on the service. He quickly reversed course and his Life of Pablo album found its way to Apple Music, leaving some Tidal subscribers feeling cheated.
There was also talk at one point that Apple wanted to buy Tidal, although nothing ever came of that.
Tidal’s drama wasn’t enough to keep Sprint away, so now we’ll see how well that investment pays out—and we’ll see just how exclusive Sprint’s promised content will be.