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Pandora’s new CEO faces uphill battle to turn company around


Pandora today appointed Roger Lynch, founder and CEO of Sling TV, as its new CEO and a member of its board. The news prompted Pandora shares to rise 2.85 percent in after-hours trading.

Lynch will replace interim CEO Naveen Chopra, who will continue to serve as CFO. Pandora also named Michael Lynton, former CEO of Sony Entertainment, to its board. Lynton also serves as Chairman of Snap’s board. In late June, founder and CEO Tim Westergren departed, along with the company’s president and chief marketing officer.

While the news is welcome for Pandora, Lynch faces an uphill battle in turning around the music-streaming pioneer. Pandora’s stock has fallen 57 percent in the past two years as the company faces rising competition from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and others.

In addition, SiriusXM, which owns 19 percent of the Pandora, and has been pressuring the company to trim back its ambitions. Pandora recently sold off its TicketFly business and pulled out of New Zealand and Australia.

Those moves, along with the shift in emphasis away from subscribers and toward ad-supported listeners, are aimed at improving the company’s financials. The company has posted net losses for years and warned in late July that it would fall short of revenue projections this year because of the impact of its recent changes.

Pandora also said active listeners fell 2.7 percent last quarter to 76 million, following a 3.3 percent drop in its audience in the first quarter. By comparison, Spotify claims 140 million active users, with 40 percent of those being paid subscribers.

Under Lynch, Sling TV grew to become the largest provider of so-called skinny bundles, with 2 million U.S. homes using its service. Before Sling, Lynch held executive positions at DISH Network, EchoStar Corporations, and Video Networks.

“I cannot imagine a more important and exciting time to join Pandora,” Lynch said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this great team, having a lot of fun, and leading Pandora through its next exciting phase.”

Separately, Spotify today deepened its integration with Facebook’s messenger app. Messenger’s intelligent assistant “M” now supplies Spotify recommendations when music is mentioned in a conversation. Last month, Pandora started using machine learning to improve its own recommendations.

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