Pandora Media (NYSE:P) is set to announce third-quarter 2015 results this Thursday. With shares of the music-streaming leader up a whopping 40% since last quarter's impressive showing, you can bet the market will be listening closely when its report hits the wires.
Of course, we don't lend much credence to Wall Street's short-term expectations, but it's no mystery that significantly exceeding -- or falling short of -- consensus estimates can result in some wild post-earnings swings for any given stock. In Pandora's case, analysts predict that revenue will have climbed 30.6% year over year to $313 million, while net income per share is expected to increase 11% to $0.10. By comparison, Pandora hasn't provided specific guidance for third-quarter earnings per share but did tell investors to expect revenue of $310 million to $315 million, and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $25 million to $30 million.
But Pandora's business is about more than just revenue and earnings. Investors should also anticipate receiving several other pieces of useful supplementary data to understand what's driving those results.
Last quarter, for example, Pandora exhibited strength in mobile revenue, which grew 37% to $229.7 million. Advertising revenue also climbed 30% year over year to $230.9 million and comprised more than 80% of Pandora's total sales. That included particular strength in local advertising, revenue from which skyrocketed 67% to $58.9 million, good for 25.5% of overall ad revenue. Considering Pandora continues to invest heavily in both its mobile platform and driving local advertising, it seems fair to expect this momentum to continue.
We should also see updates on the size of Pandora's active listener base, which grew 3.9% year over year last quarter to 79.4 million. Over the long term, Pandora maintains a stated goal of reaching at least 100 million active listeners in the United States. But as Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews regularly insists, even more important to Pandora's success is the loyalty of those users. To gauge this metric, keep an eye on whether total listener hours increases faster than the actual number of active listeners. Last quarter, total listener hours grew 5% to 5.3 billion, despite Apple's attempt to stir the pot by offering users a three-month free trial of Apple Music beginning in June.
On competition and royalties
Speaking of which, last quarter McAndrews surprised some investors by stating of Apple Music's effect on Pandora, "We aren't seeing any meaningful listener impact at this time, and we don't expect any long-term meaningful impact, either."
But on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that while around 8.5 million users are still enjoying their Apple Music free trials, another 6.5 million users have already opted to pay the $9.99-per-month fee for the service once their trials expired. To be fair, it remains to be seen how many of those paying subscribers did so by mistake after not realizing their free ride was finished last month. But if they all stick around, simple arithmetic tells us they'll be worth around $780 million in incremental annual revenue for Apple -- something Pandora would love to achieve through its own subscription service. I would be amazed, then, if management didn't dedicate at least a little time during Thursday's conference call to refreshing their stance on the competition.
Next, Pandora management may also provide fresh perspective on their ongoing "Web IV" royalty rate-setting proceedings. Recall that almost exactly one month ago, Pandora stock popped after it confirmed that the U.S. Copyright Office had agreed to use Pandora's direct royalty deal with Merlin Network as a benchmark in the case. That's great news for Pandora, as it undermines the competing argument from royalty collector SoundExchange that rates should be set at what Pandora believes to be unsustainably high levels. However, Pandora is still awaiting a final decision from the Copyright Royalty Board by the end of 2015, and investors would love to hear any pertinent updates hinting at what that decision will be.
On acquisitions and guidance
Finally, earlier this month Pandora announced that it has agreed to acquire ticketing and marketing software company Ticketfly for $450 million. By combining Pandora and TicketFly, according to Pandora's press release, it hopes to "solve the long-standing problem of event discovery by seamlessly connecting Pandora's nearly 80 million monthly active music fans to events they'll love." And in a likely reference to last quarter's acquisition of music data analytics company Next Big Sound, Pandora elaborated "The companies will also harness the power of their combined data to create new tools for music makers to increase their revenue and improve recommendations for fans to enhance their overall music experience."
More pertinent to investors, though, will be whether Pandora management has an accurate idea at this stage of when (and to what extent) Ticketfly business might be accretive to Pandora's top and bottom lines.
To that end, listen for revisions to Pandora's full-year 2015 guidance. Three months ago, Pandora raised its 2015 revenue guidance to a range of $1.175 billion to $1.185 billion and reiterated its adjusted EBITDA outlook of $75 million to $85 million. Whether Pandora management sees fit to adjust these ranges up or down will depend on its performance, business trends, and the effect of acquisitions in the third quarter. But because the market is a fickle, forward-looking machine, don't be surprised if Pandora stock follows suit either way.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Pandora Media. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.