Pandora listener drop connected to loss of commuter listening

In this week’s Q1 earnings call from parent company Sirius XM, we learned (and reported) that Pandora experienced a drop in monthly listeners to about 61-million, down from the year-ago Q1 report of 66-millions, and further down from a higher plateau in the upper-70-millions before the acquisition. SIRI executives James E. Meyer (CEO) and David J. Frear (CFO) dug into the metric in response to investor questioning.

First it must be observed that Sirius’s total North America audience reach is 140-million listeners, as noted by Meyer earlier in the call.

Later, in the Q&A portion, Meyer dug into the listener drop at Pandora.

“On the Pandora side, we have definitely seen a downturn in our listening. It has come back recently, but still not quite where we would have expected it to be. And so, we’re spending a lot of time on understanding that. Most of that were shows related to the impact of the virus right now, and obviously, the flip between stay-at-home and commuting […] in the car. I also expect that will change and return to normal once Americans begin to get back to what we all know we’re going to do every day, which is get back going back to work.”

David J. Frear doubled down on the company’s intelligence about where the listener drop comes from, and how — to some extent — listening is being transferred to different times, places, and devices:

“We can track the listening changes directly to commute times. And we — if you look at the markets with stronger stay-at-home orders and we’ve looked at the markets that don’t have them, there’s a lot of data at Pandora and you can track the change and listening trend directly to commute. We have picked up quite a bit on CE devices with the whole growth in smart speakers. So we did actually see people sort of effectively transitioning to a different location. But the pickup in CE doesn’t make up for the loss of commute.”

The disruption of daily routines, and listening habits, is not special to Pandora, as we have seen from many angles in our coronavirus tracking.

Brad Hill