Yahoo's Music Unlimited Pummels Rivals' Shares
The launch of Yahoo's Music Unlimited music-subscription service Wednesday pushed down shares of rivals Napster and RealNetworks, with the sell-off continuing Thursday. Even Apple, which analysts have said is in no direct danger from Yahoo's low-cost entry into the music market.
Wednesday, Napster's shares plunged $1.70, or 26.8 percent, to close at $4.65 on the Nasdaq, while RealNetworks' shares dropped $1.54, or 21.1 percent, to $5.76. More than 21 million Napster and 14 million RealNetworks shares were traded Wednesday, far above their typical marks of a half million or so.
Shares of both continued to drop Thursday. As of mid-day EDT, Napster stood at $4.38, down another 5.8 percent. RealNetworks, meanwhile, had slid to $5.49, a 4.7 percent drop since the opening bell.
Apple's shares fell 81 cents, or 2.2 percent, Wednesday, to $35.61; on Thursday, the slide continued, with prices falling to $34.52, down another $1.09, or 3.1 percent. Most financial analysts believe that Apple is relatively immune to Yahoo's price war, since it doesn't have a competing subscription service, and relies more on revenues of its iPod hardware than its iTunes online music store.
Yahoo's shares gained 82 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $34.88 Wednesday in heavy trading. Thursday's climb was less dramatic: a gain of $.17, or .5 percent, to $35.05.
Yahoo's prices -- $4.99 per month when purchasing a year's subscription for $60 -- are a third that of the nearly $180 Napster and RealNetworks charge for their comparable services.
But in a conference call to analysts Wednesday, Chris Gorog, Napster's chairman tried to calm investors by predicting that Yahoo's low prices can't last, and that users won't like the ads the portal puts on their screens.
"Based on our discussions with record labels, it's clear that very aggressive introductory pricing from competitors will be at negative gross margins," Gorog said in a statement released after the conference call. "We believe that consumers should expect rapid price increases. We further believe that most consumers will demand that that a paid subscription service should be an ad-free environment."
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