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In-Dash Radio: ‘You’re Going To See Things Evolve Very Quickly.’

Today’s media world is all about personalization and recommendations. Whether it’s Netflix or Spotify, the goal is to push new content to the consumer based on their behavior to keep them engaged on the platform. That concept is coming to broadcast radio in what tech provider Xperi calls “radio-to-radio recommendations.”

As part of its roadmap for DTS AutoStage, the hybrid radio software rolling out globally, the company is drawing on learnings and intellectual property from TiVo, which it acquired in June 2020, and applying them to audio. “You’re going to see things evolve very quickly,” Xperi Senior VP of Broadcast Radio Joe D’Angelo tells Inside Radio. “We're doing what we call radio-to-radio recommendations, where we understand your listening behavior as a driver using DTS AutoStage. And we're going to be able to recommend other radio stations, either in your market, or even as you drive out of market. And the reason we're doing that is that is where media consumption is going from a consumer perspective.”

The goal is to keep listeners in the broadcast radio ecosystem, instead of having them sent off to competing platforms like satellite radio or Spotify. “Radio offers so much content now, especially with digital radio, there's no reason why a driver can't find what they want to listen to, staying within the broadcast radio dial,” D’Angelo explains.

Beyond the live linear radio experience, DTS AutoStage enables broadcasters to provide in-car access to podcasts and archived content. Instead of going to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to access a radio station’s podcast, Xperi is working with broadcasters to make their nonlinear content available in the radio interface. Motorists will be able to navigate around the dashboard screen to find other audio programming being offered by the radio station. “We are really putting radio first in this cluttered audio experience in the car with Spotify and TuneIn and SiriusXM and everything else that drivers have to choose from,” D’Angelo adds.

The goal is to make the over-the-air listening experience better than the streaming experience. For example, take a New York listener who enjoys Yankees baseball, Islanders hockey, “Z100” and NPR. All of that content is available over the air in a simple radio interface. Think of the number of apps it would take to access the same content in a streaming environment. “It’s the radio dial that you love, and it runs on all these advanced operating systems,” says D’Angelo, adding that Xperi has already completed integrations with six tier one auto suppliers.

One of the top takeaways from the “2021 Car Buyers Study” conducted by Edison Research is consumer passion for the simplicity of radio and how easy it is for motorists to find what they’re looking for. “It’s about creating a user interface that's going to work and keep[ing] it simple and straightforward,” Laurence Harrison, Director of Automotive Partners at Radioplayer, said at April’s NAB Show in Las Vegas. “As cars become more autonomous and screens multiply and get larger, stations can make some of the video content they’re already creating for social media and other platforms available in the car.”

Piggybacking off that ease of use, broadcasters have an opportunity to exploit new digital technology, such as hybrid radio, to enable “a deeper dive” into their station’s content, including podcasts, features, and contests.

Rethinking Radio In The Dashboard

As radio is able to introduce more audio options, such as on-demand content and HD Radio side channels, hybrid radio creates an opportunity to rethink what it can deliver to the dashboard. Much like they are doing now with mobile apps and websites, there are new avenues for broadcasters to maximize audience engagement in the dash.

But all of this innovation has to be done in a way that keeps drivers’ eyes on the road and hands upon the wheel. Safety experts look at metrics like the pace at which drivers take their eyes off the road – more than two seconds is verboten – and the degree to which driver-assisted functionality is being used in the vehicle.

According to Scott Schmidt, VP of Safety Policy, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the duration of a task that takes the driver off of driving will be variable based on the driver assistance technology in the vehicle.

As the possibilities of what content can be can delivered to the dash continue to expand, broadcasters face both an opportunity and a challenge, D’Angelo says. “How do you continue to offer services that are at that leading edge that are going to take advantage of all of the opportunities, both from a technology perspective, and from a driver engagement perspective, to be at the head of the audio stack?”

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