Two panels on the “connected car” at this week’s Radio Show (September 30-October 2, 2015, Atlanta, GA) offered attendees an insightful look into what’s coming down the road and what the competition is up to in the all-important automotive space. One of the most helpful and perhaps surprising take-aways was the suggestion that broadcasters need to connect with their local auto dealers to make sure that new car buyers are being trained in how to access local AM and FM radio on the increasingly complex dashboard!
First up was a panel on Radio Futures: New Developments for the Connected Car, moderated by Paul McLane, Editor in Chief, Radio World. Panelists for this session included Scott Burnell, Global Lead, Business Development & Partner Management, Ford Motor Company, Andreas Mai, Director, Smart Connected Vehicles, Cisco Systems, and Joe Mosele, VP Business Development – Internet of Things Solutions, AT&T Mobility.
Dominating the conversation of this panel was their belief that broadcasters need to embrace the mobile broadband technology that is becoming pervasive in the auto industry and take advantage of the interactive and personalized capabilities it has to offer, and, that more competition is coming with more audio services fighting for “real estate” on the digital dashboard. Scott Burnell encouraged broadcasters to recognize that their core competency is delivering content and not transmitting an AM or FM signal, and that broadcasters need to deliver this content using the means by which the audience wants to consume it. He said that one of Ford’s goals is for vehicles to provide a consistent experience such that whatever audio you are consuming outside of the vehicle “just happens” to be on when you get into the vehicle. He said that broadcasters already have an audience that is loyal, and that they must make sure not to lose them by disregarding advancing technology.
The standing-room only crowd had a lot to ask and to add during this session, as well. It was pointed out that radio in the car has successfully weathered numerous inroads into the dash in the past, including 8-track and cassette tapes, CDs, and satellite radio, so perhaps the new mobile broadband options available to consumers are not such a big threat after all. To the contrary, this panel was quick to point out that unlike the earlier threats, mobile broadband is fundamentally a new form of broadcasting, and that the mobile broadband revolution is bringing with it the advantages of local broadcasting as well as the capabilities of other technologies such as personalized and on-demand content.
Another interesting insight offered by the panel was that the two-way nature of the mobile broadband experience offers the ability for carmakers to track user behavior, even to the point of how users set the volume controls and what audio sources they prefer, leading to further refinements in the dashboard experience.
The second panel, Dashboard Disruption for Programmers: How Can Local Radio Stay Strong in the Car? was moderated by Sam Matheny, EVP and CTO, NAB, with panelists Dave Beasing, Program Director, The Sound LA (Entercom), Alan Burns, Owner, Alan Burns and Associates, and Fred Jacobs, President, Jacobs Media/jacAPPS.
During this panel, a number of interviews captured on video were presented during which consumers explained their listening habits in the connected car and in particular, whether they listened to the radio and if not, why that was so. The most prevalent complaint about radio (not surprisingly) was too many ads, while the most commonly cited strength of radio was the ability to provide relevant and timely local content, especially in times of emergency or when there was breaking local news.
It was this panel that stressed the importance of radio stations reaching out to local car dealerships and working with car salespeople to make sure that new car customers are being shown how to access AM and FM radio in the vehicle. The point was made that in fact this is what Pandora is doing for their service and that broadcasters need to do the same. At one point in the session a single number – 11.5 – was shown on the video screen, by Fred Jacobs who said that this is the number of years on average a new vehicle is driven, pointing out that older cars with traditional dashboards are constantly and relentlessly being retired in favor of newer vehicles with Internet capabilities. The prediction is that in five years’ time there will be over 200 million connected cars on the road, and broadcasters need to start doing more to protect their position on the dash to effectively compete in the connected car environment.