Yahoo Launches Subscription Radio Services on Internet

Times Staff Writer

Yahoo Inc. is adding to its roster of paid-subscription services today with a set of commercial-free Internet radio stations.

The move makes Yahoo the biggest player in the emerging market for subscription radio services, where it will compete with RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle, MusicMatch Inc. of San Diego and Inc. of San Francisco, among others.

The new service from Launch, Yahoo's Santa Monica-based music subsidiary, will sell for $3 to $4 a month. That's less than its competitors charge, but they have a couple of things Launch doesn't: the ability to hear specific songs or artists on request and near-CD-quality sound.

Launch's premium service, like its free one, lets each user influence the playlists of his or her stations by submitting musical preferences. The premium service will give users more power to customize stations, such as by finding other people with similar tastes and incorporating their recommendations into playlists.

The new offering reflects Yahoo's drive to build paid subscriptions in all its lines of business, said analyst P.J. McNealy of technology research firm GartnerG2. And subscription radio services are growing, not only online but also from satellite operator XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., McNealy said.

"People are willing to pay for access to radio and a quality experience," he said, adding, "Getting people to pay for quality content and access takes time."

Yahoo hasn't disclosed how many people use Launch's radio services or how the unit has performed financially. The company transmits a total of more than 12 million hours of music to listeners each month, said David Goldberg, general manager of Yahoo's music services.

That's more than twice the amount logged last month by Clear Channel Communications Inc., the leading online station group monitored by Arbitron Inc.'s MeasureCast service.

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