Sprint has announced it’s bought a 33 percent stake in Tidal — the artist-owned streaming service created by Jay Z. In a press release, the mobile carrier described the deal as an “unprecedented partnership” which will give Sprint subscribers “unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else.” Sprint previously confirmed it was in “discussions” with Tidal back in April 2015, but said, at the time, that no financial investment had been made.
It’s not clear exactly what the partnership entails, either in terms of how much Sprint paid for its stake or how Sprint customers will get access to Tidal. (Will the app come preinstalled on Sprint handsets for example.) The most important thing seems to be that Tidal and its artists will create content available exclusively to Sprint customers. To date, this has been how Tidal has sought to differentiate itself from its competitors, although Apple Music has also successfully played the exclusives game.
Sprint’s stake in Tidal comes just days after a report in Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv claimed that the service has been inflating its subscriber numbers. In March 2016, for example the company announced it had 3 million subscribers, but internal documents recorded only 1.2 million activated accounts and 850,000 subscribers. As of October last year, this figure for paying subscribers was said to be 1.1 million — compared to 40 million for Spotify and 20 million for Apple Music.
In a press statement, Jay Z said: “Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential.” Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who will join Tidal’s board of directors added: “The passion and dedication that these artist-owners bring to fans will enable Sprint to offer new and existing customers access to exclusive content and entertainment experiences in a way no other service can.”
The companies say more news on exclusive offers for Sprint subscribers will be unveiled soon. We’ve reached out to Tidal for comment and will update when we hear more.