It wasn't just music fans pumping up the volume on Pandora Media (NYSE:P) recently. Shares of the leading streaming music provider soared 10% higher last week after insider buying and buyout buzz continued to resonate.
Pandora board member Timothy Leiweke snapped up 10,000 shares on Wednesday, increasing his stake by nearly a third. That follows several weeks of insiders building up their positions. A week earlier it was Crosslink Capital -- a fund where Pandora Chairman Jim Feuille is a partner -- snapped up 250,000 shares.
Insiders accumulating more stock comes at a time when the speculation is swirling about an outsider doing even more buying. There's been plenty of buyout chatter when it comes to Pandora. Whether it's one of the many tech giants hoping to make up for lost time in the realm of streaming music or private equity firms looking to clean Pandora up in the shadows before taking it public at even higher price levels, the stock's been the belle of the buyout ball these days.
The long and winding road
Pandora continues to be the undisputed champ of streaming music in terms of the size of its user base. Pandora was servicing an active listener base of 79.4 million as of the end of March. That's essentially flat growth to the 79.2 million pairs of eardrums it was servicing a year earlier. Spotify has more paying subscribers. More than 95% of Pandora's audience tune in for free, putting up with ad blocks in exchange for free tunes. However, most of the consumer tech giants trying to make a splash in digital music would love to have a piece of Pandora's audience of nearly 80 million music buffs.
Usage may be flat, but revenue is still growing nicely at Pandora. Its top line has climbed 29% over the past year, fueled by advertisers willing to spend more, an uptick in subscribers opting to pay for commercial-free access, and a new ticketing platform.
Pandora continues to try to get its story out. Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips will present at the Stifel 2016 Technology, Internet & Media Conference on Tuesday. Pandora has been facing concerns of competitive threats and rising programming costs, but with double-digit percentage growth in advertising -- and even headier growth at the more lucrative local level -- it's a model that should be able to handle the operating climate shifts.
The pioneer of music streaming and radio discovery is still trying to raise the bar. This morning it announced a partnership with a leading rights administration platform to help track the mechanical licensing and royalty administration of an upcoming interactive streaming service. Yes, Pandora's drawing a lot of interest from all over these days -- and like any budding music festival or attention-craving pop star -- that isn't a bad thing.