Pandora Media (NYSE:P) released its first-quarter earnings on April 23, reporting increasing revenue helped by user engagement reaching an all-time high of 22.3 hours per active user per month. The company reported a 5.2% year-over-year jump in the number of active listeners (to 79.2 million) and roughly 11% jump in total listener hours (to 5.3 billion) in the quarter. .
Yet even with these positives, Pandora still posted a net loss, even more so than a year ago. Because of this growing revenue to income gap, Pandora investors doubtless have some questions. Here are five things Pandora management wants investors to know.
1. Pandora is making big upgrades
The biggest reason for the recent losses seems to be the investments the company was making in new technology and partnerships. In the earnings report transcript, CEO Brian McAndrews said Pandora has been investing in every part of the business "from the music we play, to the ad technology and music maker products we offer."
Much of that investment is in the actual listener experience on the service, as well as content with new artist programs, including artists directly messaging Pandora followers about new music, tours, etc. McAndrews said:
In January, we partnered with Jack White to host the live stream of his Madison Square Garden concert in New York City. To help promote the stream, Jack White and his label, Third Man Records, created a Jack White live station, which included his songs as well as songs from other Third Man Records artists. Over 700,000 of these Jack White live stations were launched and listened to.
With regard to the concert itself our listeners were able to tune into the live performance through Pandora and the numbers show just how excited they were to do so.
Through our platform we increased Jack White's live concert audience by seven times beyond the venue with 125,000 unique listeners tuning in across the United States. In the week following the event, sales of Jack White's most recent album increased by 41%, an increase that was roughly four times higher than music sales lifts experienced by similarly acclaimed musicians who performed at the same venue.
2. More employees
It's not just an increase in tech and services that is eating away at the bottom line. Pandora has been growing its employee base aggressively, planning for more overall growth in the future. Mike Herring, Pandora CFO, said:
[W]e increased headcount 35% year-over-year to 1,624 employees in the first quarter of calendar year 2015 from 1,205 employees in the same period last year. ... We have added over 90 salespeople so far in the cycle, hitting our target ... We added 24 software engineers in the quarter and now have 194 software engineers on staff, up 54% year-over-year.
When will investors see the payoff of this employee investment? Management stressed that this is a long-term plan. Herring finished the above quote saying that "product and development is an investment to drive revenue 13 to 36 months out, and thus, we plan to increase our spending in this critical area."
3. Focus on growing engagement is paying off
McAndrews said user engagement is growing, reaching a record high of 5.3 billion listener hours total, or 22.3 hours per active user per month. McAndrews said:
In addition, comScore confirmed in their March mobile metrics Top Properties Report that Pandora remains the number one mobile service in the U.S. in terms of engagement, ahead of every other mobile servicing including Facebook, Google and Twitter.
He also said that Pandora's share of the radio listening market was 10% as of the end of March. So, the investment is paying off in terms of getting attention, but are those increases going to pay off at the bottom line soon?
4. 2015 looks positive
Regardless of big advances in revenue and overall engagement, Pandora still reported a net loss of $48.3 million in the quarter, more than the $29 million in net losses the company reported during the same quarter last year. But 2015 could look pretty good following recent investments. McAndrews said:
We're on track to deliver more than $1 billion in revenue this year as the largest streaming radio service and capture more than 10% of all radio listening in the U.S. While we still have a lot more work to do and investments to made, we're starting the year from a position of strength and we're excited about our future.
For the year, Pandora management expects $1.17 billion in revenue and increasing EBITDA. While the company will likely continue to spend heavily on more upgrades that affect how the bottom line looks, investors can expect growing revenue and customer engagement, meaning the chance for future earnings continues to look good.