Samsung Spills The Milk With Its New Streaming Service

Posted: Mar 27 2014, 9:51am CDT | by , in News

Samsung Spills The Milk With Its New Streaming Service
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Just what the world needs, another streaming service. Samsung recently announced that it launched a free online streaming music service that’s only available in the US and on its Galaxy phones. The service is called Milk Music, and offers over 200 curated streaming channels free of charge to Samsung customers.

Milk Music is certainly a curious name (although it does bring the widely known “Got Milk?” campaign by the American Dairy Association to mind), but you have to wonder why Samsung would even dream of entering a space with such low margins and high competition. Okay, I can think of some.

First of all, Samsung didn’t have to build the infrastructure for the service, relying instead on Slacker Radio to provide the backbone. This is actually a good strategic move for Slacker closer in that it moves it closer to its major competitor Pandora, while Samsung gets Milk users to stay within the controlled Galaxy environment, at least at first. Being powered by Slacker also takes Samsung off the hook for any expensive licensing deals with the labels. That much makes sense.

But that’s where it also gets curious. One of the things about non-interactive radio-style streaming services is that you’re not supposed to be able to skip a song, rewind it, or choose what you want. Milk Music is somewhat of a hybrid in that you get six skips per hour, can choose to “Never Play” a particular song, and can listen to a previously played song from a list of the last 500 aired. This obviously straddles the line between interactive and non-interactive, with each paying a different royalty rate. Are we seeing yet another streaming category emerging?

Although the back-end of Milk Music is Slacker, the user interface is all Samsung, and they’ve made it as simple as possible, which is a good thing. That said, the audio quality seems to be throttled way back, with settings at only 50kbps or 90kbps, way below the acceptable standard of 192kbps that most services offer. Just this “feature” alone can turn Milk a bit sour (pardon the pun). Yes, the service may be convenient, but why bother when so many free and better sounding equivalent services are available just a touch away?

Then there’s the fact that Samsung already offers a subscription music service called Music Hub. Why bother competing with yourself? Milk Music is free and has no advertising yet, so it doesn’t generate any revenue, so what’s the play here? There’s no obvious up-sell yet and the audio quality is marginal so there will probably be listener attrition after a while, so what’s the point?

Samsung now has a bit of a history getting involved in short-sighted music ventures (remember the Jay-Z album exclusive release of his Magna Carta Holy Grail release last year?) that don’t appear to be part of a long-term strategy. There’s little risk in any of them from a corporate standpoint, but they’re not doing much for the health and growth of the brand either.

A venture like this has a few things right, and so many that are, shall we say, interesting. Samsung did a great job on the interface design, was smart in its synergy with Slacker, and makes it dead easy for someone to use it. But with degraded audio and no apparent end game, you have to wonder – why?

Source: Forbes

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