MOSCOW — Russia’s largest bank, state-controlled Sberbank, has acquired the local music streaming service Zvuk in a bid to create a major competitor to Apple Music, Spotify and local rival Yandex Music.
Renamed SberZvuk, the streaming service will become part of the company’s new product family, alongside SberBox, a TV streaming device, and SberPortal, a smart speaker with a screen that offers voice and gesture recognition.
The move is part of Sberbank’s broader drive to reinvent itself as a tech company, after it dropped the word “bank” from its name and logo and introduced a range of new products. Sberbank would not disclose how much it paid for Zvuk, which had been around since 2010, or what investment it plans to make to develop the music streaming service.
The bank launched a basic version of the platform on Monday (Sept. 28), using the same catalog and features that the original Zvuk had.
In an interview with Billboard, Michael Ilyichev, CEO of SberZvuk, says the company is “compiling the most relevant catalog for audio content in one place, including music, radio, podcasts, audiobooks, live shows, comedy shows, news, audio performances, sleepcasts, meditation music and many more pieces.”
The streaming service is also touting a proprietary recommendation system that will take into account users’ tastes, listening history, items added to collections, the context of each situation, “as well as all your activities inside the Sber ecosystem and interactions with its other products and services,” Ilyichev says.
Sberbank is a late entry in Russia’s music streaming market, which is dominated by established players, including local leader Yandex Music and global companies Apple Music and Spotify, which launched in July.
Sberbank hopes that its finance and tech ecosystem, which has a 100-million customer base, will enable ZberZvuk to offer users advantages that competitors don’t have.
“Russia is a big country, with almost all of its economically active citizens using Sber,” says Ilyichev. “Inside the ecosystem we understood the people’s mood, what they like to listen to, eat and watch. All that provides us with great opportunities that even Google doesn’t have.”
The platform, for example, will give users access to the SberPay payment tool, which has features that go “beyond the Apple and Google apps embedded in stores,” the CEO says. Users can link several cards with the app, making subscription renewal simpler “and not leave you without content at the worst possible moment.”