Despite COVID, AM/FM Continues To Dominate In-Car Listening.



With COVID restrictions causing many Americans to spend more time at home, the Infinite Dial 2021 study from Edison Research and Triton Digital found a slight decrease in the percentage of Americans 18+ who have driven or ridden in a car in the last month, from 87% in 2020 to 83% this year. “That number usually bounces around in the high 80s but in this pandemic year we saw a bit of a decline,” said John Rosso, President of Market Development at Triton Digital. “While 83% is still a high number, we should expect some impact in media consumption,” he added, noting that different segments of the population may have been differentially impacted and that might be driving changes in consumption patterns.


Among audio sources currently ever used in the car, the data shows AM/FM radio is down slightly from 81% to 75% but still No. 1 by far. Satellite radio declined more significantly, from 24% to 21%, which amounts to a 13% decrease. Owned digital music and online audio were steady at 48% and 33%, respectively. With CD players slowly going the way of the 8-Track player, their usage continued to decline and is now at just 35%.


The big in-car winner – and the only medium showing on-the-road growth – is podcasting, which increased from 28% to 30%.


The number of Americans 12+ listening to online audio in car through a cell phone increased significantly for the second year in a row, hitting 50% in 2021 from 45% in 2020 and 41% in 2019.


Meanwhile, the number of people owning sophisticated in-dash infotainment systems climbed to 20%, up from 18% in 2020.That may come as a surprise after the auto industry experienced a major downturn in new car sales in 2020. “It’s probably safe to assume that just about any new car purchased in the past year came equipped with one of these systems so that’s why the increase this year,” Rosso explained.


Conducted from Jan. 4- Feb. 2, 2021, Infinite Dial 2021 surveyed 1,507 people aged 12+ using random digit dialing techniques of both cell phones and landlines. The survey was offered in English and Spanish and weighted to U.S. population figures.

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