Streaming news at CES 2013 last week was all about integration into cars, with big announcements from Ford and JacAPPS, Pandora and Chrysler, Livio, Tunein, and lots of others. The news about Sprint and Nextradio is big as well.
Connected cars are a reality now, and Pandora has played a large part in that evolution. Pandora’s been concentrating on getting their service integrated into connected devices for a long time, and their efforts have had a very large impact. They’ve led a coordinated effort which can take a lot of credit for the high level of interest in connected cars at this year’s CES. Sure, lots of companies are enjoying the advantage of that increased buzz, that’s how it works – pioneers lead the way, open the doors, and others follow, and hopefully flourish.
I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating – the Internet radio industry has benefitted enormously from having a giant like Pandora in the space. They’ve generated lots of buzz and innovation that others have and will continue to benefit from in terms of listeners as well as technology. This Techcrunch interview with Pandora CTO Tom Conrad offers a nice overview of where they have come from, and how they do it.
HD Radio has made no progress in the last couple of years in terms of raising awareness, according to a recent study by Mark Kassof and Company. In fact, according to the report, “Awareness has actually declined. In ’08, 67% had at least ‘heard of’ HD RADIO; now, 54% do. And consumers’ understanding (and misunderstanding) of HD is virtually identical to what we found three-plus years ago.”
While people who have heard of it seem to understand what it is – that understanding seems to come mostly from the “HD” which – thanks to tv technology, is easily understood as high definition. Very few understand that it is much more than that, more channels and choice, music tagging, traffic and other innovations.
Bob Struble, President and CEO of Ibiquity, the HD Radio company, recently noted that AM/FM radio was the only analog technology on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. He was distressed to note that “AM/FM radio[was] the only analog technology remaining at CES, everything else [was]digital.”
Struble notes that many other industries have already advanced to digital. “Broadcast and cable television, mobile phones, audio and video physical media, … all were analog, now are digital.” Digital technology provides a better customer experience, and that has spurred competition. Automakers were on display in force, thanks to the exciting developments with a digital dashboard.
The reason awareness of HD Radio is so low is because so few broadcasters have invested, adopted and promoted it. Thinking their position on AM/FM dials was secure, they never felt the urgency to spend a lot of money improving the quality of their offering. As connected devices in dashboards become more ubiquitous, radio’s final bastion will be challenged.
Car stereo aftermarket sales rose in 2010 for the first time in a long time, thanks in part to Internet radio. Twice magazine says that new technologies such as Internet radios are the stimulus behind the more than 11% increase in automotive audio aftermarket sales.
There are several new technologies that have consumers excited – in addition to Internet radio, younger demo car buyers want touchscreens that enable iPod/iTouch integration and Facebook connectivity.
Manufacturers such as are excited – and they expect sales to continue to grow in 2011. The domino effect should be an increase in spending on car audio, which will boost awareness of the new devices even further. And what better place to advertise those connected devices than on the Internet radio stations themselves…