It's the age-old problem. A group of people is commuting to work, but there's only one radio – or audio source – in the car. Most of the time, “driver wins” – he or she who's doing the actual driving has first dibs to what everyone ends up listening to in the car. For likeminded friends and fellow commuters, this isn't much of a problem. But for people with distinctly different tastes in music, talk, information, and/or sports, it's an issue – especially for those long, slow rides to and from the workplace.
Of course, a solution is for everyone to simply access their favorite content via their smartphones, using headphones, ear buds, or devices like AirPods. In that way, everyone in the car can access their own personal audio, whether it's public radio, conservative talk, Hot AC, or Country. It's not a very social solution, but it is one that plays out all the time on the ride to and from work.
But thanks to technology, the value proposition of the car just got a bit more complicated – and perhaps that's a plus for radio. More and more at CES 2022, we saw all passengers in vehicles enjoying direct access to audio (and video) content, thanks to individual seat videos.
This ad (pictured) from Voxx illustrates the importance of a concept you've read about in this blog before – the “passenger economy.” As we saw again and again at CES 2022, the more screens, the better.
The point is that the big trend in automotive infotainment is that every rider gets the option to choose their personalized content. Moving forward, there will be no advantage to driving or “riding shotgun.” Everyone in the vehicle will have an equal shot to be entertained and informed, without having to put up with someone else's idea of content.
But will everybody in the car have to wear AirPods or noise-cancelling headphones? Not if Israeli-based Silentium has anything to say about it. They are working on a road noise inhibitor designed to make a vehicle's cabin as quiet as possible, potholes or not.
But their big advancement is in what they call PSB's – or Personalized Sound Bubbles. You can see the artist rendering in the illustration at the top of this post. The kids can listen to “Baby Shark” for the gazillionth time, while mom tunes in “NPR's Morning Edition” or WDRV's Sherman & Tingle.
We saw Silentium (I know, it sounds like the next generation of Ambien) in Eureka Park, the Off-Broadway version of CES, featuring bootstrap entrepreneurs. Their booth garnered a lot of interest from CES attendees.
And if you're working for a local radio station, your ears should be perking up. That's because virtually every vehicle we saw on the exhibit floor had multiple screens, often for those in the back seats. The more media options, the merrier.
But a key factor is the reality these screens are also made to display video. Right now, most radio stations don't have especially advanced video strategies. In fact, many approach video like a hobby, rather than a core content strategy.
We know from our Techsurveys that radio fans are more likely to stream video than audio. And given what we're seeing in the automotive sector, there is no end in sight for video screens.
And that was a CES trend – screens, as well as advanced applications of glass and other display materials. In exhibit after exhibit, we saw creative projections on glass – train windows, dividers between sections on airplanes, and on sun/moon roofs in autonomous vehicles. The common thread? Visuals and video, and the ability to see them from virtually any vantage point in a car, SUV, crossover, or truck.
So, while we're in the swirl of what is often called “the audio renaissance,” let's not ignore the video applications in cars, and how they're growing exponentially. For 100 years, the only thing to see while on the road was whatever was going on outside the windows. Not anymore.
For TV broadcasters, video streamers, and sites like YouTube, Twitch, and others, this looks to be an exciting moment in automotive. For radio, it's an opportunity, but it's also a challenge to traditional in-car usage patterns.
And when we asked the auto reps and exhibitors we saw on the CES floor about radio's position in the dashboard of tomorrow, many just shrugged at us. For the moment at least, many manufacturers seem fixated on autonomous and electrification, not on the radio.
The best response we got is that drivers (and passengers) will likely bring in their own content on their mobile phones.
For radio broadcasters, here's the checklist:
- A video strategy, whether it's videocasting shows or publishing short-form videos
- Video simulcasts of popular shows
- Robust mobile apps that make it easy and seamless to listen to radio streams
It will require not just producing this content, but marketing it to station fans who will want to consume it in their futuristic new cars.
Once again, we saw the future at CES 2022 again this year. And when it comes to radio's #1 listening location – the car – we're seeing the acceleration of technology and its impact on consumption.
But let's not lose sight of the fact the future will be filled with video screens, and this in-vehicle technology is here now.
Radio will have to do what it has traditionally done best – adapt.
We're talking cars, robots, AI, health and wellness, and even the metaverse in tomorrow's free webinar, “Inside CES 2022.” Join me, Paul Jacobs, and tour guide extraordinaire Shawn DuBruvac for a fast-moving walk-through of this amazing show – and what its innovations mean to broadcast radio. Register today here.