iTunes Radio is one of the best new parts of iOS 7 (and the most recent update to the iTunes desktop media management software), but it’s a U.S. exclusive. As is often the case with new movie/music/TV media products, Apple has launched the feature first in its home (and largest) market, likely because it focused on locking down streaming radio rights in the U.S. first. Now, Bloomberg reports that the service is set to expand in early 2014.
The start of next year could see iTunes Radio make its way to Canadian, U.K., Australian and New Zealand-based listeners, and potentially to some Nordic regions as well, according to Bloomberg’s sources. A launch in that timeframe would mean iTunes Radio beats competitor Pandora into those markets, so long as that company doesn’t manage any international expansion before then. There’s no evidence so far that they will, so it could be huge for Apple in terms of securing an advance foothold in markets that don’t yet have a really impressive streaming radio offering.
As I noted nearer to the iTunes Radio launch, Apple’s launch window listeners for iTunes radio represented 5.5 percent of Pandora’s total registered users with just three days of availability. 11 million had used the service in that time, and it’s likely far more now that more users have updated to iOS 7 and downloaded the newest version of iTunes.
For Apple, international growth is likely less of a challenge than it is for smaller companies. The digital media giant already operates movie, music and TV content stores in many countries around the world, and previously staged the rollout of iTunes Match, its digital music locker subscription service, across different markets, too. If we can expect a similar launch plan for iTunes Radio, then an early 2014 date makes sense, since iTunes Match rolled out to U.K. users in December 2011, following a November U.S. launch that same year.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment, and will update this story if we hear more.