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Pandora CEO: 'We intend to be profitable this year'

Pandora CEO Tim Westergren said "we intend to be profitable this year" on "Squawk Alley." That would be a big turnaround for the company, whose losses more than doubled from $170 million in 2015 to $343 million last year.

Westergren dodged questions about whether the company was for sale, comparing questions about Pandora's viability with similar questions from when the company began. " We've seen this movie before, 10, 11 years ago when we launched Internet radio, a lot of folks said the same thing – AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo had large personalized radio products with big distribution, but we built a much better product, and here we are years later the king of that category. We just think we've seen this before."

With the launch this week of Pandora Premium — the company's first ever on-demand streaming service — the company can out-compete tech giants like Apple and Amazon, he said.

"I am confident about our ability in this space," he said. "These are early days in the subscription of music and listeners don't know what a real premium product looks like yet and that's what Pandora is."

The service will cost $9.99 a month, on a par with pricing from competitors Spotify Premium and Apple Music, and offer on-demand access to any track or album in Pandora's library and tailored playlists. Users will still be able to access the regular Pandora radio-like service if they don't want to choose songs.

Pandora's unique advantage is its understanding of what users like, making the service like "a friend you have known for a while," Westergren said. There are more than 112 million listeners on Pandora who have created at least four stations, said Westergren.

"There's no cold start problem," he said.

Users can drop in a song and "rather than having to hunt and peck your way to a playlist," Pandora rolls out a whole host of songs uniquely picked for the user, he said.

Westergren dismissed speculation about an acquisition by SiriusXM as part of the "joys of being a public company," and said he is focused on the company's product, artist partnerships, advertisers and shareholders.

Westergren has not ruled out taking on private equity financing, but plans to do this "from a position of strength," he said. The launch of a new Samsung phone, the next Apple iPhone and the success of the Amazon Echo are all good for Pandora's business, he said.

"We love new products that come out for distribution," he said. "We are the most used app on pretty much every one of these devices."

Tim Westergren, Pandora Media
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Tim Westergren, Pandora Media

Correction: This story was revised to delete an incorrect statement that Pandora CEO Tim Westergren had said the company is not for sale.