While all the details of the deal are not yet available to us, we believe that MTN subscribers will be able to stream ad-free music as well as download for offline listening via the Spinlet app, using special data bundles which will be paid for with MTN airtime.
As smartphones seize more share of the market, networks are increasingly looking to keep their users with rich content. Ring back tunes might be a billion Naira business, but subscribers are demanding more — video, games and obviously, music.
MTN, which at any point in time holds about half the mobile network subscriber base has over the years launched myriad content plays, but has recently taken entering strategic partnerships with content publishers who have built strong platforms. In 2013, the network struck a deal with Dobox, allowing MTN subscribers rent movies for a fee, but stream them without data charges. While 2014 saw the launch of the MTN Music+ app, this upcoming deal with Spinlet suggests that its performance might have left something to be desired, and led them to seek a well heeled partner like Spinlet to chime in on the music side of things.
For Spinlet, the MTN deal comes at the end of an exclusive partnership with Etisalat which expired in April 2014. Etisalat subscribers can still carry on with their Spinlet-specific data bundles as before, but the app is no longer branded “Etisalat Spinlet Music”, which at the time of its unveiling led to speculation that the music streaming service had been acquired by the network.
Looked at from another angle, content publishers are playing a game of musical licensing chairs with the networks. Dobox still has a relationship with MTN, but there were strong pointers to a brewing deal with Etisalat in June.
In any event, when the music is over, the important thing is for all the players to have chosen strong partners. In Spinlet’s case, partnering with Nigeria’s biggest telco could be a defining factor in the question of whether it will successfully weather the inevitable onslaught of foreign music streaming services like Deezer and the upcoming Apple-powered Beats Music.
It is believed that the MTN/Spinlet agreement will come into play early in 2015.