Rdio plans free ad-supported streaming service

Rdio.com plans to offer free ad-supported on-demand streaming later this year. That news comes from Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus Media, which bought a 20 percent stake in Rdio.com last September. Cumulus, which has about 525 radio stations in 110 U.S. cities, is also Rdio’s exclusive U.S. sales agent.

To make Rdio’s ad-supported stream stand out, Cumulus plans to provide content from its top morning shows. It will also include “bits’ from its Westwood One production arm, which has previously covered the NCAA Finals and the Grammys.

This move should benefit Rdio listeners, allowing them to select the content they want for free. To date, Rdio users have been restricted to only getting free access to stations based on pre-programmed playlists. More than that, and they’ve been expected to pay. Rdio Unlimited costs $10 per month.

The move is also meant to benefit Cumulus Media, which wants to up its streaming game.

“Over time, we expect Rdio will become the digital audio distribution extension of all of our local brands and nationally syndicated content,” said Dickey during an investors’ call earlier this week. “It really becomes our mobile strategy, if you will.”

Cumulus’ CEO hopes that offering free on-demand streaming will put Rdio on a “level playing field” with Pandora and Spotify, and make the service competitive in the U.S. market.

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