March 1, 2021

When Spotify wanted to be the television of the future | TV

It was 2011, the television business began to transform at high speed and Spotify, the Swedish song playback platform on-line, one of the giants of today's music market, had a dream. Make competition to Hulu and Apple TV, and improve what Netflix was then (more a video store than a content generator without international expansion). But the illusion was diluted after months of work until scrapping the idea for the cost of the project. All this, which was not known until now, is told by Swedish journalists Scome Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud in the book Spotify Untold, published in your country in May.

The book traces the history of the company, with its successes and failures, from its simple beginnings in 2006 to the present. Carlsson and Leijonhufvud, reporters specializing in publication technology Say DigitalThey tell about the company's founder's attempt to ally with Facebook when he landed in the United States or the purchase intentions by Google or Microsoft. But the most striking is the television story.

The project, called internally Magneto, in honor of the Marvel comic character, did not come to fruition due to the reluctance of Daniel Ek, the creator of Spotify, to risk everything achieved so far in the music industry and enter A world they knew little about. "The licenses of the contents turned out to be very expensive, in particular the rights to broadcast sports," Carlsson and Leijonhufvud explain to EL PAÍS. "Daniel is a big fan of Arsenal and he wanted Spotify TV to offer live football, like the Premier League. But they failed to close an offer good enough to make a commercial launch," Leijonhufvud points out by telephone.

"Daniel wanted Spotify to approach television in the same way he had done with music, he wanted to build a technologically superior platform first, and then resolve rights issues in the second place," says Leijonhufvud. With the music, Spotify had offered such a good technology that they finally convinced the music industry to give them their properties for the service, despite the fact that the client was offered the music for free (at first there was no possibility of paying to be a premium customer), they explain in the book. "It took Ek a long time to understand how the television industry worked; how, even as a distributor, you still have to pay a lot of money for the content," the reporter adds.

The authors say that Ek set up a team of 70 people to develop the project for years and spent tens of millions of dollars. "The rights turned out to be very expensive and the idea was to offer normal television programming, such as news or sports. They ended up realizing that having an attractive offer was going to require more money than the company was worth at the time, in 2014 ", says Carlsson. Another of the difficulties they encountered was in the price of what they wanted to offer. "Or they would have to dilute the content to keep it low or offer something that would not be able to compete in terms of price with Netflix, for example," the journalist expands.

"If Spotify had launched its television, Netflix, Hulu and Apple would have had a European competitor to consider," says Carlsson. "Who knows if they had succeeded. Spotify did not understand the music industry either in the beginning and achieved success by becoming the largest streaming music company. But the bet was very high, they could not risk destroying the core of the music business venturing into another area with uncertain perspectives. Daniel was cautious when parking the project, "adds Leijonhufvud.

Ek's company, which in 2008 went public, came to develop a software pointer at that time with the programmer Ludvig Strigeus, known as Ludde and that he was one of the authors of the original computer platform. They even designed a remote control device similar to Apple TV in China, according to the book. "They made this incredible platform that allowed you to change channels very quickly, predicted your preferences and saved the programs you might want to watch next. The whole experience was quick and easy, which was not the case then with others," says Leijonhufvud. But Spotify then lost money and could not be distracted by anything other than music. That television of the future stayed in a dream.

Without the collaboration of the company

Cover of the Swedish edition of the book 'Spotify Untold'.

Cover of the Swedish edition of the book 'Spotify Untold'.

Journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, who had previously worked with the company for their articles in Say DigitalThey told Spotify that they were going to write a book, but they didn't receive any help. "Spotify has always been a very reserved company. They give interviews when they have something to tell and when they can control the parameters. But they have never told the whole story of the company. It gives us the impression that Daniel Ek might want to tell it one day, but right now he is focused on being the CEO of Spotify. And he's only 36 years old, "says Leijonhufvud. After the publication of the book, they have not received any comment directly from the company. "Nothing at all. We have heard, secondhand, that the main leaders are not very excited about the book. Even so, we have heard that the copies we have sent are circulating among the employees," Carlsson concludes.

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