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Can Apple Help Pandora Turn a Profit?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I hope the rumors are true and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) announces iRadio at its Worldwide Developers Conference later this month. I want a reason to go back to iTunes, assuming iRadio gets wrapped up inside of it, as it probably should.

Apple needs to do something, primarily because, over time, iTunes, as a platform to do anything with music -- consume, discover, purchase -- will continue to die. Spend five minutes with Rdio and you'll see how insignificant iTunes could end up. Plus there are the well-publicized design and functionality flaws with iTunes. Apple's entire approach to music needs a serious refresh.

As a consumer, I welcome iRadio. Internet radio -- and there are so many variations of it -- might be the best space going. We have more options than we have ever had to consume and discover music, though the purchase part continues to fade farther into the background. That's a great place to be if you love music like I do.

In any event, I hope Apple can do something it has had trouble pulling off in the past. If it can produce a compelling software/services/social platform -- as in iRadio isn't mediocre like iTunes, Ping or the Apple apps that come preloaded on your iOS devices (Calendar, the bookstore, podcast apps, etc.) -- we have yet another viable option to sit alongside Rdio, Spotify, Pandora (P - Get Report) and whatever other interface(s) you use for music.

A quick glance at my article history or a simple Google search ("rocco pendola thestreet pandora apple iRadio) produces a more-than-ample amount of reading material where I make the case that Pandora will feel limited, if any, pain from an Apple radio product.


That said, if you're a Pandora investor, you might actually benefit if Apple steals some Internet radio marketshare from the undisputed leader. Pandora owns Internet radio by a mile -- and claims roughly 7.3% of total radio listening -- so it actually has some ground to give.

The net effect of an Apple chink in Pandora's armor could be positive for Pandora stock.

"Everybody" wants to see Pandora post a profit. Many of these same people reacted hastily to the company's 40-hour-per-month mobile listening cap as a negative. Turns out the move lowered content acquisition costs as listener hours moderated and more than doubled subscription revenue. That helped the bottom line and played a role in Pandora's upbeat outlook.


While I don't expect a measurable dent in Pandora's listening metrics as a result of iRadio, I could be wrong. And, if I am, that could be a good thing. A little more slight but still significant moderation of Pandora's hyper growth and out-sized content costs could make P/L look even better than it did this quarter.

Given the 180 turn so many have done on the company, a couple quarters' worth of profits come the second half of 2013, first half of 2014, could signal perceived stabilization of a business model the doubters were wrong to question in the first place. That could send one of the year's top-performing stocks (P is up approximately 79% year-to-date) even higher.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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