Reports that Apple intends to offer its iTunes Radio streaming music service to Canadians in early 2014 are welcome news to a nation used to content envy.
Bundled into Apple's latest mobile software update, iOS 7, iTunes Radio launched September 18, but only in the U.S. According to "people with knowledge of the situation" who spoke to Bloomberg, the next countries to gain access include Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Nordic countries. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, when reached by the Globe and Mail.
Canadians could be forgiven for thinking that streaming radio is not for us. The world's most popular streaming music service, Pandora, has had an app for Apple devices since 2008, which has never been available in Canada. Licensing hurdles and fights over royalty rates kept it restricted to the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Indeed, most of the big name players are not available in Canada: Spotify, Google Play Music All Access, Rhapsody are all geo-locked, though at least Rdio and Songza are accessible.
Apple's entry into this highly competitive category was seen as a tool to push users to download songs from its industry-leading digital music store. The company earns almost $7-billion a year in music sales. Helpfully for the hardware firm, it comes pre-installed on the new iPhone 5S and 5C, of which 9 million were sold in the first weekend.
Five days after its launch, Apple bragged that it had 11 million unique listeners on its Radio service. (The most-listened to song was "Hold On, We're Going Home," by Canadian rap sensation Drake.)
That quick uptake poses a threat to Pandora, which has more than 80 million users, and a library of some 800,000 songs. Analysts expressed concern, noting that some 50 per cent of Pandora listeners rely on an Apple device to tune in. According to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Jordan Rohan, if Apple kept up its early pace, it could suck away 15 per cent of Pandora's "listening hours" over the next six months.
The service does play ads, but U.S. users can subscribe to iTunes Match (a cloud backup service for your music library) for a monthly fee that includes zapping those pesky commercials.