Sprint today announced that it’s acquiring a large 33% stake in the Jay-Z owned streaming music service TIDAL, which debuted in 2015 as a competitor to Google Play Music, Spotify, and others.
Jay-Z and crew will continue to run the service, according to the company’s announcement, but the deal will give Sprint customers access to exclusive content:
Sprint and global entertainment platform TIDAL today announce a game-changing partnership that will soon give Sprint’s 45 million retail customers unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else…
“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” said JAY Z. “Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”
While it doesn’t sound like Sprint users will get free access to the service, which like competitors costs $9.99/month, the companies will be supporting artists with a marketing budget that will allow for exclusive content and promotions. Tidal also has a 19.99 a month tier that offers the same experience but access to high-fidelity audio.
The announcement today comes on the heels of acquisition rumors for Tidal. Back in September Apple denied reports that it had interest in potentially acquiring the service, while Samsung, Google, Spotify and others had also reportedly shown interest in making a deal alongside Sprint.
Tidal’s differentiator has long been its claimed focus on artist relations, using its CEO Jay Z’s pull in the music industry to get a long list of high-profile artists to both sign-up and offer exclusive content through the service. Its efforts with exclusive content have been called into question, however, as many of the releases later found their way to Apple Music and competing services. Late last year one of its biggest supporters, Kanye West, said competition between Tidal and Apple Music was ‘hurting the music industry’ as rumors of a possible acquisition surfaced.
Questions over the service’s growth and subscriber-base also emerged this month as a report from Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv discovered Tidal had inflated its subscriber numbers, putting it at around 850,000 subscribers vs the 3 million it reported back in March of last year.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure is joining the TIDAL’s Board of Directors as part of the deal. Financial details weren’t disclosed in today’s announcement. Update: Billboard quotes a source that says the deal was worth $200 million.