HD RADIO EXEC: SETTING UP FUTURE DASH DOMINANCE STARTS NOW.

To defend their in-car dominance, broadcasters shouldn’t get caught up in what their place might be in the autonomous car of tomorrow. They’re better off leveraging what’s already available in the car of today, Joe D’Angelo, senior VP of audio tech provider DTS, said Thursday during a panel discussion on dashboard strategies for broadcasters.

DTS, a subsidiary of Tessera Technologies, is the licensor of HD Radio. With 36 million cars on the road outfitted with HD Radio and 42% of new cars rolling off dealer lots with the technology installed, broadcasters are finally in a position to leverage HD Radio, following a long, often frustrating rollout. “You are now in a position to exploit that,” D’Angelo told the crowd at the North American Broadcasters Association’s Future of Radio & Audio Symposium.

Along with HD Radio, DTS is also setting the stage for connected radio. Also known as hybrid radio, it’s a combination of over-the-air FM radio and IP-delivered content. While it will offer visuals such as artist images, song titles and other content, HD Radio is not a required ingredient of this new project. Connected radio, D’Angelo said, will enable broadcasters “to really compete with other connected services and lay the road for the autonomous car.”

Embraced by every major automaker, HD Radio is seen as a smart way for broadcast radio to deliver the information and user experience consumers are used to getting in the format they expect to receive it, according to Anupam Malhotra, director of Connected Vehicles at Audi of America. The upscale automaker prides itself on giving consumers the ability to access any medium they want in an easy user interface, a priority he said hasn’t changed. But what’s different nowadays, Malhotra said, is how Audi implements that strategy. As more Millennials enter the auto market, Audi has to pay attention to their preference for touchscreens while also giving older generations who grew up with knobs and buttons what he called a “transition period.”

With 60%-70% of Audi vehicles internet-connected at the time of sale, the carmaker is able to collect reams of customer data to better understand how people use their vehicle and even what they’re listening to and how they listen. That presents an opportunity for radio, Malhotra said, to use the data to better tailor content for consumers.

Beyond connectivity, Malhotra pointed to other automotive trends that have radio implications. One is electrification, or what he called the “huge shift” by consumers to vehicles powered by electricity. While AM radio interference issues have caused Audi to engineer electric vehicle engines differently, the company currently has no “intention of moving away from AM,” Malhotra said. But as broadcasters evaluate AM radio’s future, he urged them to keep in mind that more and more vehicles will run on electricity.

Further down the road, automation has radio ramifications since self-driving vehicles will bring changes to the dashboard interface in terms of what content automakers deliver and how they deliver it.

As the dashboard continues to change, with a multitude of different audio systems vying for consumer attention—from automakers’ proprietary infotainment systems to Apply CarPlay and Android Auto—there is potential for confusion. Demian Perry, director of Mobile Operations at NPR, suggested the industry unite behind a common standard. “We need to come together and figure out what is the standard, the way that people are most likely to access us,” he said. “It may be HD Radio it or it may be something else.” In the meantime, NPR’s strategy is to “play cheaply in as many platforms as possible.”

But D’Angelo made the case that HD Radio is, in fact, the standard and that DTS is trying to spread it globally since automakers manufacture cars that are sold all over the world. A global HD Radio standard that could accommodate regional strategies, he said, would create efficiencies and make it easier for broadcasters to integrate. “There are years, not decades, for radio to pave its way into the future,” D’Angelo said.


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