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Spotify now has 248m listeners including 113m premium subscribers


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Spotify has announced its latest financial results, for the third quarter of 2019. The streaming service now has 248 million monthly active users (MAUs), up 30% year-on-year, having added 16 million in Q3.

113 million of those users are premium subscribers: 31% growth in the last year, with five million having been added during last quarter.

As for the actual financials, Spotify’s Q3 revenues grew by 28% year-on-year to €1.73bn, including 29% growth for its premium subscriptions (to €1.56bn) and 20% growth for its advertising revenues (to €170m). Subscriptions thus account for 90.2% of Spotify’s overall turnover.

The company reported an operating profit of €54m, compared to an operating loss of €6m in Q3 last year. Spotify also reported a quarterly net profit of €241m – if you’re startled at that, look to the line in Spotify’s filing where it reports ‘finance income’ of €226m, compared to €10m a year ago.

Spotify says that ‘developing regions’ played a role in its MAU growth outperforming expectations. “Growth in Latin America accelerated sequentially for the 2nd consecutive quarter as retention among newer users continues to improve. Southeast Asia remains our fastest growing region (excluding India),” explained the company.

And India? “India outperformed our forecast by 30% this quarter,” reported Spotify, citing the launch of its first ‘broad-based’ marketing campaign there since its launch in February.

Spotify took a swipe at its two biggest rivals in its financials announcement. “We continue to feel very good about our competitive position in the market. Relative to Apple, the publicly available data shows that we are adding roughly twice as many subscribers per month as they are,” announced the company.

“Additionally, we believe that our monthly engagement is roughly 2x as high and our churn is at half the rate. Elsewhere, our estimates imply that we continue to add more users on an absolute basis than Amazon. Our data also suggests that Amazon’s user base skews significantly more to ‘Ad-Supported’ than ‘Premium’, and that average engagement on our platform is approximately 3x.”

Spotify did admit that its advertising-revenue growth “underperformed our expectations” in the third quarter, blaming “self-inflicted implementation and integration issues we experienced with the rollout of a new order management software to replace Google’s Doubleclick Sales Manager which was sunset in July”. It was significant: around €9m of lost revenue, according to Spotify.

Spotify has also announced that its chief financial officer Barry McCarthy will retire in mid-January 2020, to be replaced by the company’s current VP of FP&A, treasury and investor relations, Paul Vogel. If shareholders approve, McCarthy is expected to be reappointed to Spotify’s board of directors, having held that role before taking the CFO job.

The company also offered some new figures for the growth of its podcasts business: hours streamed grew by 39% quarter-on-quarter “albeit off a small base”. As for listeners: “Podcast adoption has reached almost 14% of total MAUs”. That means nearly 35 million Spotify users are now listening to podcasts, globally.

Spotify now has more than 500k podcasts available on its service, and remains alive to label fears that this category could be cannibalising music listening and revenues. Spotify’s argument is that it’s actually persuading more people to start paying for a subscription.

“For music listeners who do engage in podcasts, we are seeing increased engagement and increased conversion from Ad-Supported to Premium. Some of the increases are extraordinary, almost too good to be true,” it claimed. “We’re working to clean up the data to prove causality, not just correlation. Still, our intuition is the data is more right than wrong, and that we’re onto something special.”

Spotify published its latest predictions for its end-of-year figures. It expects to have 255-270 million MAUs by the end of 2019 – that’s up from the 250-265 million prediction it made in its Q2 financials. Spotify also expects to have 120-125 million premium subscribers at the end of this year, which is an unchanged forecast.

The company also added in a note for investors (and music-industry partners) spooked by Spotify’s share price.

“Look back to March 2018 before our direct listing. Compare the Street’s expectations then for FY 2019 to our guidance now. The 12 month target stock price then was $181 and the consensus forecast (the average forecast of the 18 equity research analysts who covered us prior to 1Q18 earnings) for 2019 was actually lower than today’s guidance for this year’s results,” noted Spotify.

“The business is outperforming and the stock price is down 33% vs. the consensus. Sometimes the stock price reflects the performance of the business and sometimes it doesn’t. But eventually, it always does.”

Stuart Dredge

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