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Airtel In Serious Talks to Acquire Indian Streamer Gaana

An acquisition would mark an end to a tumultuous time for Gaana, which has suffered high turnover and struggled to be profitable.

MUMBAI — Indian telecommunication services company Bharti Airtel, which runs streaming platform Wynk Music, is in serious discussions about acquiring audio-streaming service Gaana, Billboard has learned.

Earlier on Tuesday, The Economic Times, which is owned by Gaana’s parent company Times Group, reported that the deal had been done, saying, “Airtel has acquired the music streaming platform Gaana.” The story was subsequently taken down.

Times Internet, the digital arm of the Times Group, previously owned Gaana, the report said, noting that whether Wynk and Gaana would be merged “is yet to be known.”

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Billboard reached out to representatives at both Airtel and Times Internet but did not receive an immediate confirmation that the terms of the acquisition had been agreed to. But two sources familiar with the matter say that negotiations between the parties have been ongoing for a few months.

The acquisition, if confirmed, would mark an end to a tumultuous run of events for Gaana, which has seen a change of guard in its top management and a high turnover of staff. In recent months, the catalogs of both Universal Music India and Zee Music Company have been missing from the platform.

The service, which would regularly announce jumps in its monthly average users, has not declared a new MAU figure since August 2020 when it claimed to have 185 million users. In the financial year ended March 2021, Gaana incurred losses of 3.27 billion rupees ($44 million).

Like most services in India, Gaana has struggled to build its subscriber base in the country, where paying users amount to less than 1% of the total customers on audio-streaming services. A big reason for this is the dominance of YouTube, which is said to have more than double the number of MAUs as audio platforms.

Rumors in the Indian music industry have been rife for some years now that Times Internet has been looking for a buyer for the platform, which does not have the captive listener base of a telecom service like its main rivals, Wynk and Reliance Jio-owned JioSaavn.

Sources working closely with the Times Group and Reliance Jio told Billboard that Times Group has shopped Gaana to both Wynk and JioSaavn in the past.

Wynk Music has a reported 72 million MAUs, making it one of the leading streaming services in India, an overcrowded market with over half-a-dozen players. The merger with Gaana would help both platforms take on the threat of international upstarts Spotify and ByteDance-owned Resso, which have been garnering listeners since their launches in 2019 and 2020 respectively.