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Shazam names new CEO, a former Yahoo exec, as it weighs IPO

April 29, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Rich Riley, a former executive vice president at Yahoo, is the new chief executive of Shazam.
Rich Riley, a former executive vice president at Yahoo, is the new chief… (Shazam )

In comic books, young Billy Batson utters the word "shazam" to instantly transform into the superhero Captain Marvel.

In the digital world, the Shazam app quickly summons information about a song or TV program. Now it's hoping to grab the interest of Wall Street with a pair of high-profile executive announcements, as the company positions itself for its next phase of growth -- and contemplates a possible initial public stock offering.

Rich Riley, Yahoo's former executive vice president for the Americas, has been named chief executive, succeeding Andrew Fisher, who has served in that position since 2005. Fisher has been appointed to the full-time position of executive chairman. John Pearson, who has been board chairman since 2006, will become a non-executive director.

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The new executive team will look to grow the service, which has more than 300 million users in 200 countries.

Shazam got its start as a music app that could identify a song on the radio in as little as one second and provide information about the title and artist. Through the application, the user can buy the song, access the lyrics or watch the music video on YouTube. 

In 2011, Shazam introduced a television companion service enabling advertisers to use the app to deliver more information about a featured product, take part in a promotion (Paramount Pictures offered a free download of a Linkin Park single as part of a "Transformers 3" campaign) or shop (Progressive Insurance let viewers who tagged its ads get auto insurance rate quotes). 

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By last year, the Shazam app expanded from providing enhanced content for a handful of high-profile television events, such as the London Olympics and the Super Bowl, to delivering a companion experience on the user's smartphone or tablet for shows on 160 channels in the United States. It provides show trivia, entertainment and celebrity news related to the show and its cast, and a way to easily monitor what the show's stars are tweeting.

"Half of our users interact with TV using Shazam each week," said Fisher. 

Riley, who spent more than 13 years at Yahoo, said he joined Shazam because of the brand's power and the size of its installed base.

"It's got tremendous momentum, growing by over 2 million new users per week," Riley said. "If you think about where everything is going, in terms of the proliferation of smartphones and tablets ... there's enormous value to be created there."

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