Sonos Launches Free In-App Radio Stations

Sonos is making a play at the music streaming space by building a first-party radio station feature into its app. Sonos listeners will still be able to stream from internet providers like Tunein and iHeart Radio to gain access to local stations, sports and more regular radio programming in the new Sonos Radio section of the app. The company says that users will have access to over 60,000 stations. However, the more exciting addition is the company’s own ad-free stations. The ad-free stations that source music through a deal with Napster are curated by famous musicians like Thom Yorke and Jamilia Woods, alongside Sonos’s own expert stable of curators and DJs.

Sonos up until now has acted strictly as an integrator for the services of others, operating the platform layer to provide in-house, multi-room streaming via its Sonos speaker and audio equipment products. This marks its first foray into doing something on the services side, so it’s a big change. I asked about whether this signals further moves into streaming, including through a potential paid premium offering with on-demand content, which would more directly compete with some of its biggest partners including Apple, Google and Spotify, and Sonos Product Marketing Director Ryan Richards didn’t shut the door on that possibility.

“This is about lean-back listening, it’s about discovery,” he said. “There are a lot of options for active listening out there, too, and so what we’re really focused on is first and foremost making the best possible radio service for our customers. In the future, we’ll see how that changes, but that’s what we’re focused on now.”

At launch, the global radio option backed by iHeartRadio and TuneIn will be available globally, but Sonos Radio’s original products will only be available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland and Australia, with the company planning to expand availability in future. Its in-house offerings are powered by a deal with Napster to use their streaming catalog, and Richards told me that that arrangement also bounds the availability of the services. Sonos is working on signing up additional streaming licensing partners for an expanded geographic footprint and catalogue size, however.

The new Sonos Radio features won’t be compatible with voice control via either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa on Sonos hardware that supports that at launch, though Richards says the company is looking at adding that as a future feature update. To get access, anyone with a Sonos system should see the new offering in their Sonos app via a software update available April 21 2020.

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