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New Research Shows AM/FM Radio Remains 'Car Buyers' Most Important Medium.'

For nearly two-thirds of Americans, AM/FM radio remains the top audio choice while driving. That's the main finding of a Hub Entertainment Research survey of more than 2,500 U.S. consumers ages 16-74, conducted last November.

The results show 63% say they use over-the-air radio every time or most times while driving, more than doubling the share of respondents with that level of listening to a streaming music/audio subscription (31%), satellite radio (30%), personal music downloads (28%) or free streaming music/audio (26%).

“Americans have added streaming to their cars, and listen to new options like podcasts and audiobooks,” Hub's report says, “but radio – primarily OTA, but also satellite and streamed simulcasts – is still the king of the road.”

Perhaps as a result, AM/FM also remains the most important audio choice when consumers are buying cars. The study shows that nearly four in 10 participants (39%) say that they’re more likely to buy a car if it has an OTA radio, vs. 31% for satellite and 27% for Apple CarPlay. “Automobile OEMs should continue pushing the envelope in adding new media options, but still remember [that] radio is still car-buyers' most important medium,” the report says.

Hub's research finds that one in three drivers say that others riding with them use different media devices all or most of the time, a proportion that moves to half when those passengers are children. “Media services and auto makers can try to make bifurcated appeals to promote in-car use: one pitch to drivers and one to passengers,” its report says.

When it comes to commuting via mass transit, AM/FM still leads all entertainment choices, although the competition isn't far behind. Half of consumers surveyed say they listen to OTA radio all or most times, keeping a slight edge over personal music downloads, free streaming music/audio, free streaming video and streaming music/audio subscriptions. Hub's report warns to “look for digital media options to increase share as Wi-Fi continues to be built into mass transit (trains, buses, etc.) and unlimited mobile data plans become ubiquitous.”

For both drivers and those taking public transportation, music is the first audio content choice, vs. talk radio stations in cars or audiobooks on buses or trains, according to the results.

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