By: Janko Roettgers
Univision is set to announce at SXSW today that it has partnered with Napster to bring more music streaming choices to its revamped Uforia app. In addition to live streams of Univision’s 58 local radio stations, the app is now also offering users hundreds of playlist based on Napster’s catalog of 40 million songs.
“Univision has been a pioneer in Latin music,” said Univision Radio president Jesus Lara in an interview with Variety this week. However, Lara admitted that Univision didn’t have a good track record of coordinating its efforts across TV, local radio and online. That’s where Uforia comes in, which the company recently refreshed as a brand for all of its music efforts going forward.
Part of these efforts is the new Uforia app, which Lara described as fine-tuned to Univision’s audience. “The Hispanic marketplace is a complex one,” he said, with Cuban-Americans preferring different tunes than music fans with a Mexican or Guatemalan heritage.
Napster CEO Bill Patrizio argued that the Spotify’s and Apple Music’s of this world were often missing those nuances, and in turn ignoring Univision’s audience. “They are poorly served by today’s mainstream music services,” he said.
Uforia’s promise to Hispanic music fans is to go deep. “We contextualize the programming,” said Lara, citing the recent International Women’s Day as an example. For that day, Uforia’s curators created a number of playlists, including one of women-only Mariachi bands, and one of female Reggaeton artists.
And there is another difference between Uforia and Spotify, or Apple Music for that matter. Univision’s music app is free for all, with no upsell to a paid plan. “My audience is accustomed to and doesn’t mind the advertising for a free service,” said Lara, adding that his company currently had no plans for a paid tier.
“Not all roads lead to $9.99 a month,” agreed Patrizio. He likened today’s streaming market to a pre-internet world, when record labels focused on CDs, and tried to sell the same product for the same price point to everyone. “It’s inevitable that we are going to see greater segmentation,” he said.
Napster has been a music streaming pioneer in its own right, launching the first all-you-can-eat subscription service under its Rhapsody brand all the way back in 2001. Facing stiff competition from Spotify and Apple, the company has shifted more of its focus to B2B, powering music apps from iHeartRadio and others. But Patrizio said that Napster would continue to capitalize on its brand going forward. “We will not become some nameless, faceless white label provider that no one has ever heard of,” he said.
As for Uforia, the revamped app with a Napster-powered music streaming experience is available for iOS and Android now. The app will get podcasts soon, and both Lara and Patrizio hinted at plans to more directly integrate Univision radio feeds with Napster’s music catalog. Said Lara: “It’s really the beginning of a journey.”