Last week, we hosted a webinar on our biggest takeaways for radio broadcasters from CES 2018. Among them were many technical achievements and much gadgetry – including autonomous and electric cars, robots, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, drones, and of course, smart speakers.
But one of our highlighted trends this year revolved around the growing proliferation of partnerships – two (or more) companies coming together to work on specific needs and synergies. It seemed like everywhere we journeyed around the Las Vegas Convention Center and satellite hotel exhibit spaces, everyone was talking partnerships as an indication of their forward thinking and long-term strategy.
They are the organization engine behind so many of the technological achievements we saw at CES – the product of two very different skillsets, mindsets, and organizations working together toward a common purpose or goal. Partnerships are what the radio industry so sorely needs in order to progress beyond transmitters, towers, spots, and dots.
At Honda, it was Marcus Frommer (who managers corporate communications) reminding our touring radio executives about the value of stitching together relationships with technology companies to further his company’s progress in robotics, autonomous driving, and electrification.
At a dinner with Ford’s Timur Pulathaneli who supervises his company’s AppLink, SmartDeviceLink, and partner development, we talked about the importance of strategic and technical alliances. He told me about a new Ford partnership with the Waze app – an obvious marriage that works for both brands, providing Ford with accurate, real-time traffic information, while giving Waze much needed reach and discovery in millions of cars and trucks.
And last week at the North American International Auto Show here in Detroit, WWJ’s Auto Reporter, Jeff Gilbert, connected with Fiat/Chrysler (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne about the same topic – partnerships.
“We need to be able to stay very close to (autonomous) technology, with knowledge, with talent on the inside. We need to be able to follow choices.”
And that’s why FCA has partnered with Google’s (actually Alphabet’s) autonomous car company – Waymo – supplying a huge fleet of Chrysler Pacificas being tested in markets like Phoenix.
Waymo had already ordered 600 of these minivans, and soon FCA will supply thousands of them, as the two companies forge an alliance to figure out and perfect autonomous cars and how they’ll change both the auto and tech sectors.
Yes, Waymo could figure out how to build their own test cars, while Fiat Chrysler has the engineering brain power that might eventually bring self-driving cars to market. But the Waymo/FCA partnership accelerates the program in a multi-industry race toward autonomy where time is of the essence.
We saw this again and again this year at CES. Uber and Lyft – the two biggest names in on-demand transportation – are all over the autonomous initiative – but they can’t do it alone.
Uber has a partnership in place with Nvidia (one of the stops on our tour), along with the Chinese tech company Baidu. They know where their business is heading. We’ve already become accustomed to hailing an Uber using our smartphones. The only difference is that a Prius will one day show up without someone named Carlos and Deidre behind the wheel – and safely whisk us to our destination.
Not surprisingly, Lyft is engaged in the space, too. They’ve partnered with Aptiv (formerly Delphi) to chase their autonomous driving dreams. Once again, partnerships are driving their autonomous initiative. Aptiv is already well down the road toward making it a reality in the not-too-distant future.
One of my “aha moments” at CES 2018 took place on the C-Space stage at the Aria. Sky’s Director of Business Development and Partnerships, Emma Lloyd, explained the value of these strategic alliances. Sky is the European media and telecommunication giant. But like most traditional media companies, the need to innovate is constant.
After the show, I had a chance to speak with Emma about how Sky envisions partnerships – both with megawatt companies like Facebook and Google, as well as agile small startups.
Like many radio broadcasters here in the States, Sky has a strong brand and great footprint but with no reputation in the startup community. That’s where partnerships can solve problems. They’ve gone as far as to set up their own ecosystem – Sky Ventures – including establishing an office in San Francisco, where European colleagues can be kept close to innovation.
At C-Space, Emma explained how an early partnership with Roku helped both companies establish their goals. For Roku, it expanded their brand into Europe, while for Sky, the alliance provided much-need technology to launch its new streaming service, NOW-TV, in 2012.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lloyd looks for opportunities with global innovators like Apple and Facebook. While Sky may not end up playing an integral role in some of these partnerships, they help keep her brand top-of-mind. As she explained, “”We want to be at the top of their list when they think of European initiatives…I’ve done some relatively small initiatives with those big tech companies so those relationships are front of the line when they think about doing something more radical.”
Partnerships also contribute to improving Sky’s intellectual capital, including presence on start-up boards that brings new learnings back to the company. At the moment, Sky is focusing on AI (artificial intelligence, machine learning, and “Big Data,” all of which can be bolstered by strategic partnerships.
And Emma believes some of the moves Sky has made would work for the radio industry. “I don’t see any fundamental difference between the radio industry and television in terms of partnership benefits.”
Neither do I. It’s going to take more than a good hire here and there or even starting up a new division for radio companies to establish workable, profitable digital strategies and business models. In just the past few years, we’ve seen broadcasters struggle with everything from streaming to podcasting to of course, automotive.
The NAB’s auto initiative has been especially active in the past year, forging relationships with car makers and other technology partners. One of the byproducts could very likely turn into partnerships between leaders in the auto space working with broadcasters on leveraging data collection, communication, audience relationships, and other synergies.
As autonomous cars will be sans pedals and steering wheels, the question of what will be built into what’s now known as the “center stack” is a good one. Partnerships with radio broadcasters could no doubt influence the ultimate direction of where these vehicles will go and how they’re equipped.
But it shouldn’t stop with automotive. Radio has a lot to offer other companies, especially in the tech space. As Bob Pittman has proved with iHeartRadio, terrestrial stations from Philly to Pensacola can effectively drive app downloads and streaming usage. Why not connect radio broadcasters with tech companies where everyone’s goals can be achieved?
Partnerships may be more important to the future of radio broadcasting than any other tech trend. Our Jacobs CEO/CES Tours will most likely evolve from traipsing around the Las Vegas Convention Center to connecting radio execs with technologists, marketers, and leaders from companies we can’t even imagine now.
It goes beyond the development of new business models, techie gadgetry, and other alliances. As companies actively pursuing and achieving partnerships will tell you, an important result is often cultural in nature – bringing together professionals from vastly different industries and background who work together and learn from each other to achieve their respective goals.
After watching radio executives interact with tech company leaders at CES these past few years, I can tell you unequivocally that radio’s corner office denizens can greatly benefit from exposure to different thinking, different cultures, and different mindsets.
The shortest distance between Point A and Point B may start with Point P – partnerships.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.