iHeartMedia, the largest radio broadcasting company in the U.S., has pulled the curtain off a beta of two new services, iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access, the latter of which will use the streaming infrastructure of Napster (previously Rhapsody, the longest-running music streaming service). The services will launch in full in January, 2017.
The pricing ($4.99 -- which we pretty much already knew) and functionality (offline listening, unlimited song skips, customized "stations") of iHeartRadio Plus closely mirrors that of Pandora Plus, the mid-price subscription service launched by iHeartRadio's primary digital competitor in early September. iHeartRadio Plus does arrive with one significant differentiator: live radio from the company's 850 terrestrial stations, and the ability to replay songs aired and heard on those stations.
iHeartRadio All Access -- which costs $9.99 a month, now standard -- also depends on that terrestrial radio experience to set it apart from the other all-you-can-eat streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Apart from that radio integration, the functionality of All Access versus its competitors remains largely the same.
In an interview with Billboard the day iHeartRadio first announced its entry into streaming, president Darren Davis pointed out that "on-demand music is the entire business for Spotify, for the other competitors in that space. It's not our core business: it's a feature. We think it complements things."
The same could be said for Pandora (which also owns at least one traditional radio station), which iHeartRadio has now beaten to market (and not by much -- the launch of Pandora's own all-you-can-eat streaming service is expected sometime next month). Pandora's own service will likely have a similar price point, but is also expected to arrive with features cherry-picked from the remains of Rdio, which it bought last year and has spent the interim re-engineering.