Pandora launches Sponsored Listening; free music in exchange for watching one commercial

pandora sponsored listening fox 01Buying media is easy. Getting people to watch commercials is not. That’s the premise behind Pandora’s new Sponsored Listening program.

The new initiative just launched with two brand partners, Fox and Sony PlayStation. Pandora users who encounter the commercial opportunity see a banner ad with the message, “Watch this video to start your 1 hour of uninterrupted listening.” Click the video, watch it through, and the next hour is commercial-free.

RAIN spoke to Lizzie Widhelm, Pandora’s Vice President of Digital, about the significance of Sponsored Listening.

“Much of the time I’ve been here I’ve been focused on: What is the market telling us?” said Widhelm, who has been with Pandora for over eight years. “The biggest thing we’re hearing is that there’s a lot of noise, and advertisers are really interested in attention. This product, Sponsored Listening, is delivering on that.”

Widhelm discussed listener benefit as equal to advertiser value. “One of the things that we believe strongly is that what’s good for the listener is good for the advertiser. Sponsored Listening delivers on that too. It’s a one-hour, uninterrupted sponsored opportunity.”

The program has been released to 20% of Pandora’s non-paying users.¬†Of Pandora’s 250-million registered users, 76-million are monthly listeners, and fewer than three-million subscribe to Pandora One, which is ad-free. Sponsored Listings will stay in limited beta into 2015. Lizzie Widhelm said the company has “a very organized beta strategy” to measure effectiveness, and the beta is designed in part to text different user groups within the 20% population.

Brad Hill