Looks like the llama may not get off so easily after all. AOL yesterday announced that it was shutting down Winamp, media playing software for Windows and Android devices that it picked up through its $80 million acquisition of Nullsoft in 1999. But today Techcrunch has learned that AOL is talks with Microsoft to sell Winamp, along with Shoutcast, a media streaming service also developed by Nullsoft. We have also learned that AOL has been planning to announce the closure of Shoutcast next week.
AOL has declined to comment for this story,
and we are still waiting to hear back from Microsoft with a response. From what we understand, the deal is not yet finalized, with AOL and Microsoft still working out the price. It could also be very wishful thinking from those intent on trying to save both services.
AOL did not give any guidance yesterday on what would happen with Shoutcast.
If this is correct, it would represent an interesting, and strange, twist in the story.
On the AOL side, it’s fairly clear why AOL is closing down Winamp and Shoutcast, and it makes sense why it would want to sell both.
As an owner, AOL has never given much of a strong direction to the products, at a time when other digital music companies have been building up audiences and evolving technologies (although, as we pointed out earlier this week when writing about Rdio layoffs, the digital music business is tough). It has already shuttered and sold off other music assets as part of a bigger strategic shift to focus resources as a web publisher (it owns TechCrunch, Engadget, Huffington Post and a number of other bloggy properties), and as a rich-media advertising network operator across those and third-party sites, with an increasing focus on ad-tech to improve how those ads are delivered and measured.
Yes, music properties could very much fit into that mix, but not without a lot of financial and strategic investment in them.
On the Microsoft side, the Windows giant has had its own setbacks in music (RIP Zune). But it has more recently thrown a lot of eggs into the Xbox Music basket, which works on the Xbox 360, Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone 8,iOS and Android devices, offering free, ad-supported streaming, subscriptions, and downloaded music.
Where would Winamp or Shoutcast fit into that mix? While I’m still trying to figure out what Microsoft would do with Winamp, Shoutcast has a platform that acts as a portal to over 50,000 radio stations. This could be one area that Microsoft might want to add to the Xbox Music platform, and which it currently lacks, to complement its Pandora-style personal radio feature.
Update: Microsoft has declined to comment for this story.