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NAB Show 2019: Automakers, broadcasters aim to make radio visual

Updated April 10, 2019 - 7:28 pm

Radio broadcasters are teaming up with auto manufacturers and technology companies to fight off growing competition from the likes of Sirius XM Holdings and iTunes for passenger mind-share.

Those collaborative efforts were on display at the National Association of Broadcasters Show, which is being held this week at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

This year, the NAB Show, which runs through Thursday, features a new pavilion dedicated to the in-car experience as rapid technological advancements like fifth-generation wireless technology and autonomous driving causes the two industries to converge.

German car maker Audi showed off hybrid radio technology that enables its cars to seamlessly switch from a station’s FM signal to web streaming. Audi will roll out the technology in cars sold in the U.S. next year, said Martin Koch, head of the car company’s infotainment and multimedia development.

Audi is also encouraging radio broadcasters to add greater content to the real estate they have on the newest dashboards, Koch said. Stations can better engage passengers by including logos, recently played songs and podcasts, he said. Radio stations now offer little more than their frequency and current show or song name.

“We want to have a rich radio experience inside the car,” Koch said. “The competition (for radio) is getting tougher with more streaming stuff coming to the car. Radio now has the chance to provide their library.”

Broadcast radio still dominates the content consumed inside cars because most vehicles on the road don’t have the technology to offer streaming.

The average age of a car on U.S. roads is nearly 12 years, according to the Bureau of Transportation. Radio’s prominence could decline as more people switch to connected cars, unless broadcasters adapt.

Koch said he envisions a future in which passengers listening to an Ariana Grande song on the radio will have the opportunity to scroll through the broadcaster’s content via the dashboard to hear interviews with the pop singer.

‘Liking’ songs

Silicon Valley firm Xperi showed off its technology that will enable car passengers to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ songs on the radio — much as they would a photo on Facebook — via a tablet-like dashboard connected to the Internet.

Xperi will also make it possible for passengers to share songs on social media, be notified when a song or performer they like is on the radio and quickly scroll through songs currently playing.

The company announced Wednesday it is teaming up with LG Electronics and an unnamed auto maker to bring its connected radio product to cars in 2020.

Dashboard new billboard

The car dashboard has become the “billboard and sales pitch” for radio stations and they must fill it with content like logos and photos to effectively compete, said Lawrence Galkoff, general manager for international business at Radioplayer.

“Radio is about pictures as well,” he said.

UK-based Radioplayer is a not-for-profit organization seeking to help broadcasters grow their audience and stay relevant by offering an interface on phones, tablets and now inside cars.

The NAB Show attracts more than 90,000 industry professionals to Las Vegas to see the latest trends in broadcasting and media.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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