Photographer: Tom Hall/Bloomberg

Deezer Hires Facebook, Spotify Managers to Fight Bigger Rivals

  • French streaming service betting on partnerships, Asia growth
  • “We don’t think we’re going to overtake Spotify or Apple”

Music-streaming service Deezer SA hired former managers of Facebook Inc. and Spotify Ltd. in a bid to crack the Asian market and differentiate itself from larger rivals such as Apple Music by expanding through brand partnerships.

The Paris-based company said it recruited Pascal de Mul, who worked as global head of hardware partnerships at Spotify for five years, and Daud Aditirto, who spent the last four years working on growth alliances at Facebook in Asia.

Deezer appointed Aditirto vice president for the Asia-Pacific region, where it is seeking to expand. De Mul was named chief partnership officer, tasked with striking deals with big firms in industries such as telecommunications, hardware and automotive to increase the company’s 10 million-strong user base. When working for larger rival Spotify, he negotiated deals with brands such as Samsung, Bose, Ford and Volvo, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Deezer is jostling for position in a cutthroat market dominated by Spotify and Apple Inc. and characterized by price competition and exclusive content deals. The French company is trying to distinguish itself from the active playlist curation of rival services by perfecting a product for algorithm-led passive radio-style consumption, for instance for in-vehicle listening, Chief Commercial Officer Golan Shaked said.

“We’re very realistic,” Shaked said in a phone interview. “We don’t think we’re going to overtake Spotify or Apple. What we do think we will be able to do is dominate the market share of the lean-back experience.”

“We’re trying to predict the future of streaming,” Shaked said. Deezer wants to provide users a soundtrack throughout the day, from the office desktop to the mobile phone and home speaker system or smart-TV, he said. “Therefore vertical partnerships are very, very important to us.”

Deezer abandoned an initial public offering in 2015 before raising 100 million euros ($105 million) in private equity last January. It entered the U.S. streaming market in July.

Shaked said Deezer wants to continue its “double-digit” user growth in 2017, declining to provide more specific numbers on, for instance, paying subscribers.

Deezer’s business model means competition doesn’t include just streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. There’s an old-fashioned foe to contend with too, said James Goss, an analyst at the Barrington Research Association.

“The broadcast radio industry is still alive and not that badly damaged,” Goss said. Radio “has a huge revenue base, and is free, in terms of out-of pocket-expense. So it still has more usage than I think people might be willing to admit.”

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