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Smart Speaker Ownership Levels Off But Remains Important Part Of Radio Listening.

Smart speaker growth has stalled with 41% of Americans owning such a device as of second quarter 2022. From 2017 to 2019, smart speaker ownership soared from just 7% of all Americans to 33%, according to Edison Research’s Share Of Ear survey. The pandemic froze purchases until Christmas 2021 when ownership jumped to 40% in first quarter 2021. But since then, ownership has paused with no post-Christmas “pop” in 2021.

In a drill-down into smart speaker stats from its recently released 2022 Audioscape report, Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard suggests the stalling growth rates are from limited consumer applications for smart speakers besides playing music and answering simple questions. “It could be consumers don't really understand all of the potential use cases of the technology,” Bouvard said during a brief video presentation of the results.

The penetration is more significant among younger demos, where 46% of persons 13-34 report owning a smart speaker. But as age goes up, penetration goes down – 44% of 35–54-year-olds and 27% of persons 55+ own a smart speaker device, per Bouvard’s analysis of Share Of Ear data.

Still, adoption rates are growing faster among older demos. Smart speaker penetration has grown 170% during the past four years for 55+ persons, higher than any other demo. “The fastest growing demographic for smart speakers is persons 55-plus, which has basically tripled off a low base,” said Bouvard.

The slowdown in smart speaker adoption has also caused the amount of AM/FM radio listening that occurs on the devices to stabilize. Four years ago, just 9% of AM/FM radio streaming took place on smart speakers. After big jumps in 2019, 2020 and 2021 that stands at 27% in 2022, up slightly from 25% last year, according to Triton Digital. “It appears that the slowing of the growth in device adoption has also kind of tempered the growth as a proportion of radio listening,” Bouvard points out.

Looking at data from its O&O radio stations, Cumulus saw a similar outcome – 29% of streaming for its 400+ radio stations occurs via smart speakers, stable from the prior year.

While listening to radio on smart speakers has levelled off, it remains vital to American radio as these devices are more likely to be the only radio device in the home. According to Edison’s 2022 Infinite Dial, 40% of smart speaker owners do not have a radio in their home. That’s up from 28% in 2018. “The smart speaker is becoming more and more important because it's one of the few actual in-home devices that can play radio stations for consumers in addition, of course, to the mobile phone,” Bouvard notes.

Amazon Alexa devices continue to dominate the space, cordoning off 80% of the smart speaker market compared to just under one-third for Google Home (32%). Given Alexa’s dominant device footprint, it should come as no surprise that Amazon Music is the most listened to platform on smart speakers. “If you own the rails [with] your content obviously as the default streaming service on the Alexa, [it] will do very well,” Bouvard explains. According to Edison Share of Ear Q2 2022, 20% of all tuning minutes on smart speakers go to Amazon Music, followed by music videos on YouTube (12%), AM/FM radio and SiriusXM (each at 11%).

But all of the promotion radio stations have done to encourage listeners to tune in on their smart speakers has paid off. AM/FM radio has the No. 1 share of ad-supported audio time on smart speakers among persons 13+.

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