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UPDATE 2-Spotify to launch in 85 new markets, reach more than a billion listeners

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Supantha Mukherjee and Kenneth Li
·3 min read
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* "Batman Unburied" podcast to release later this year

* Releases new features for artists and tools foradvertisers

* Launches a new subscription service, Spotify HiFi

* Shares up as much as 6%(Adds details on new markets, podcast deals, advertising tools)

By Supantha Mukherjee and Kenneth Li

STOCKHOLM/NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Spotify saidon Monday it would nearly double its market presence bylaunching in 85 new markets in the next few days, making themusic streaming service available to more than a billion peoplearound the world.

The company's shares, which were down in early trading,reversed course to rise as much as 6% to a record high.

The Swedish company, which started its service more than adecade ago, is currently available in 93 countries and has 345million monthly active users.

While Spotify is the leader in music streaming, entry in newcountries across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America wouldsignificantly increase the gap with its rivals, Apple Musicand Amazon Music.

"Together these markets represent more than a billionpeople, with nearly half of them already using the internet,"said Chief Premium Business Officer Alex Norstrom. "Some of theplaces we're going like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria havethe fastest growing internet populations in the world."

An earlier expansion drive in India, Russia and the MiddleEast has already brought in millions of subscribers.

While paid subscribers got a boost during the coronaviruspandemic as people locked in their homes opted for its premiumservice, the company is now looking to boost its advertisementrevenue.

In a one and half hour livestream featuring singing byJustin Bieber, Spotify released a host of new features forartists and tools for advertisers for better targeting itsmillions of users across music and podcasts.

PODCAST PLAY

In its efforts to make money from podcasts, Spotifyannounced the creation of a podcast advertising marketplacewhere advertisers can buy across a network of original exclusiveand independent podcasts and target audiences both on and offSpotify.

It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to boost itspodcast range, which now has more than 2.2 million podcasttitles, including "The Michelle Obama Podcast" and one by PrinceHarry and his wife, Meghan.

Higher Ground Productions, Barack and Michelle Obama'sproduction company, announced another new show with BruceSpringsteen for Spotify called "Renegades: Born in the U.S.A."

On Monday, Spotify announced a partnership with a AGBO, acompany led by Anthony and Joe Russo, creators behind films like"Avengers: Infinity War", for multiple podcast series. It alsosigned a deal with Warner Bros and DC for a range ofnarrative-scripted podcasts.

The first, "Batman Unburied", will release later this yearas part of a set of characters whose stories will be exploredvia audio, including "Superman", "Wonder Woman", "Joker", and"Catwoman", among others.

Spotify also launched a new subscription service, SpotifyHiFi, with which premium subscribers in select markets will beable to upgrade their sound quality of the songs to "lossless"CD-quality music.

Shares reached an intra-day high of $387.44.(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Kenneth Li inNew York; editing by Jane Merriman and Steve Orlofsky)