With 18,000 jobs being cut at Microsoft over the next year, the largest in the company’s 39-year history, what’s to become of Nokia MixRadio? The streaming music service, launched in 31 countries last November on Windows phones, will spin-off to become its own entity that will see the eventual development of apps for Apple iOs and Google Android operating systems, says Jyrki Rosenberg, VP and head of Nokia Entertainment.
“I don’t believe any digital music service can succeed in the long-term if it doesn’t have a pretty ubiquitous experience,” Rosenberg told Billboard Friday. “Because that’s what consumers and listeners around the world expect.” MixRadio will become a third-party service of its own, delivered by a to-be-determined separate company, but will continue to be pre-loaded on Microsoft devices. “Our strategy is unchanged,” Rosenberg adds. “The focus remains on being the most personal listening experience, that’s really simple to use but highly personalized. Hopefully with this change, the other services will expand and create additional opportunities.”
Though Nokia MixRadio arrived fairly late to the streaming-radio party last fall, it launched in far more territories than Pandora or IHeartRadio (currently available U.S., Australia and New Zealand) as well as U.S.-only services like Beats Music and Samsung’s Milk. Globally, Nokia MixRadio competes more directly with on-demand services like Spotify and Deezer, which have expanded to dozens of countries in recent years. Rosenberg notes MixRadio has shown particular early growth in countries like China and India, the latter of which was highlighted by a recent partnership with Miss World-turned-pop star Priyanka Chopra.
Rosenberg declined to comment on how many Nokia Music staff members would be affected by Microsoft’s announcement Thursday, saying only, “The core team is still the core team, and it’s good to be home again.” Nor would he elaborate on a recent blog post he penned in which he pegged Beats Music’s active users in the range of 260,000 (“Even without launching on Android and iOS, MixRadio has had more users in the U.S.,” Rosenberg wrote, “and dozens of times this number of users globally in over 31 markets.”)
Instead, Rosenberg noted that MixRadio currently has a catalog of 32 million songs, and over 10,000 curated playlists globally, more than any other service, he claims. “And out of that growth, we believe the personal radio services will end up dominating these kind of markets with anywhere between 200 and 300 million users by the year 2018,” he says. “Also, mobile is the fastest growing hardware or access method for streaming services. And MixRadio was billed as the first mobile-first service when we launched Nokia Music three years ago. That’s where we see the growth over the next five years.” Handset competitor Samsung’s similar mobile-only Milk Music, which debuted in March, recently announced 2 million users had signed up for the service to coincide with its first ad campaign.
Also confirmed in the wake of Microsoft’s planned layoffs was the shuttering of Xbox Entertainment Studios in the coming months. Studio chief Nancy Tellem, former head of CBS Entertainment, will remain with the company, as will exec VP Jordan Levin, a fellow TV vet and former head of The WB.