Pandora Isn't Afraid of Big, Bad Apple

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Pandora has been a rock star lately.

Before taking a breather on Wednesday during the abridged trading day ahead of the Independence Day holiday, shares of the leading music streaming service had closed higher for eight consecutive sessions.

You don't see that happen very often, and the 31% surge in those eight trading days is remarkable since it came shortly after Apple made iTunes Radio official.

There's no denying that Apple is gunning for Pandora's more than 70 million active listeners. The consumer tech giant's platform will offer free ad-based streaming with limited skips just like Pandora. Apple's premium ad-free platform will even be cheaper than the $36 a year Pandora One subscriptions.

However, Apple's arrival has somehow turned some analysts into Pandora bulls.

Morgan Stanley's Scott Devitt upgraded his view on Netflix -- going from equal weight to iverweight -- suggesting that Apple's arrival may actually benefit Pandora by getting more traditional radio advertisers to earmark more of their marketing dollars for digital broadcasts.

With Pandora serving up more than a billion hours of content a month these days, Devitt feels that ad revenue should accelerate now that Internet radio is a viable platform for sponsors. As the undisputed market leader -- something that Apple is unlikely to change anytime soon -- Pandora should be the biggest beneficiary for the shift in ad spending.

A week earlier it was Cowen upgrading Pandora, calling Apple's arrival a "manageable" threat.

Naturally, perceptions may change once Apple actually incorporates iTunes Radio into iTunes later this year. Apple is the country's leading music retailer, and while it has been late to streaming and bombed horrifically with its Ping social music experiment, the company is one of the few tech bellwethers that can't be underestimated.

Apple has a history of raising the bar, usually when the market least expects something magical.

Pandora's getting nice and loud these days, but it's going to have to earn the higher volume soon.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Pandora Media. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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