Carrier partnership comes amid fresh controversy over subscriber numbers.
Sprint will acquire a 33% share in music streaming service Tidal, the two companies have announced, as part of a deal that will bring the carrier’s customers “unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else.”
“TIDAL and its artists will make exclusive content that will only be available to current and new Sprint customers,” Sprint’s press release claims, without going into detail on exactly what form this will take. Jay Z and Tidal’s other artist-owners — including the likes of Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Kanye West and Rihanna — will continue to run the service.
Sprint had previously said it was in discussions with Tidal back in 2015; more recently, there’d been speculation on other potential buyers, including Apple.
The acquisition comes amid controversy over Tidal’s subscriber numbers. A Norweigan newspaper recently reported that Tidal’s claim of 3 million subscribers was inflated, and that according to figures given to the music industry, the real number was closer to 1.2 million. Early last year Jay Z himself said Tidal’s previous owners had inflated their subscriber figures before he purchased it for $56 million.
Whichever number is accurate, Tidal continues to lag behind Spotify and Apple Music, and if nothing else, the Sprint tie-in will open the service up to an enormous number of new users. It also gives Sprint an answer to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom service, which zero-rates data charges from some streaming services. And for Tidal, it’s easy to imagine how app preloads and other marketing tricks could help raise the service’s profile.