Sprint invests in uncompressed audio streaming service Tidal

Sprint invests in uncompressed audio streaming service Tidal

US mobile operator Sprint has become the biggest investor in high-quality music streaming service Tidal, and it is promising exclusive content to its 45 million subscribers.

No terms were given for the investment, though many reports put it at $200 million for a 33% stake. As part of the deal, Sprint’s CEO, Marcelo Claure, will also join Tidal’s board of directors.

Tidal is mainly owned by a number of artists, including Jay Z, who led a group that bought the Norwegian company for $56 million in 2015.

One of Tidal’s attractions is that it delivers audio in uncompressed CD quality, while most other services offer highly compressed MP3 streams. At the beginning of January Tidal announced an extra high quality service, offering 24-bit audio at 96kHz – compared with CD quality, which is 16 bits and 44.1kHz. According to some estimates, uncompressed and master-quality audio requires 10 times the file size of MP3 streams. 

It’s an opportunity Sprint has been aware of for at least three years. In July 2014 then Sprint CEO Dan Hesse – weeks before he was ousted in favour of Claure – grumbled in an interview about poor audio quality in an era if high-definition TV. “The quality is crushed by MP3 files. The sound is terrible,” he said. “Even Spotify still uses compressed formats. A move to high-definition, uncompressed audio “will be great for the music industry”, he said.

However questions remain about the success of Tidal, and especially about the number of its subscribers. The company lost $28 million in 2015, according to reports, and last week a Norwegian newspaper said that Tidal had over-reported subscriber numbers.

However, the Sprint deal means Tidal’s content will be available to all of its 45 million prepaid and postpaid customers in the US.

“Sprint shares our view of revolutionising 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.”

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