NAB Show: Keeping Radio Dominant In The Dashboard.

The annual NAB Show opened in Las Vegas over the weekend, and for radio, the opening action included a panel titled “The Evolution of the In-Vehicle Broadcast Radio Experience.” Its primary focus: the importance of—and strides made with—broadcasters working with automakers to ensure radio’s dominance on the dash.

The session was certainly an ideal match for the NAB Show’s 2017 theme: “M.E.T./Media, Entertainment, Technology.” In his presentation, Xperi senior VP of Broadcast Technology, Joe D’Angelo, stressed that as vehicles become more connected, radio must utilize advanced digital technology to improve the listener experience and keep it relevant—while also keeping it profitable for manufacturers, broadcasters and advertisers.

“I believe that 10 years from now broadcast radio will be more valuable to the car,” D’Angelo told the NAB session audience. “It’s important that moving forward, we own our audience for their ears, their eyes and their interactivity” with audio in the car.

Because vehicles are quickly evolving in what he termed “the ultimate connected audio portal,” broadcasters must continue their investment in digital platforms—obviously including HD Radio, which D’Angelo helped create and market as a founding executive at iBiquity, which, after a number of buyouts, is now Experi.

In fact, D’Angelo noted that next year, an internal on-board modem will be required in all cars sold in the EU. Its fundamental purpose is for safety in vehicle location, while OEMs will be able to implement such tools as diagnostics and service updates. The U.S. is also working toward such a standard, albeit with a slower rollout.

And despite the challenges to radio’s dominance on the dashboard—as touchscreens increasingly mix up AM and FM’s presence alongside boxes for streaming, satellite radio, Bluetooth and apps—D’Angelo remains undaunted. “Radio is still so massively consumed around the world; it truly is a universal medium. And car companies recognize that. It is that foundation that’s allowing us to continue to innovate around radio.”

While praising traditional broadcasters for their initial and ongoing investments in HD technology—which has taken nearly a decade to creep toward status quo in vehicles—he cautioned, “You should look hard at how you can take advantage of technology innovations in the car today and plan for the future of the dashboard.”

D’Angelo added that broadcasters and tech companies such as Experi “have to make it easy for listeners to find your content and then engage them and give them opportunity to interact with you as a content provider and also as an advertiser. Discovery and engagement are now our focus.”

He also allayed fears about Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which as has been widely reported, offer a ubiquitous mobile-mimicking layout in vehicle dashboards that is no friend to radio. Pointing out how many OEMs are standing by their own proprietary dashboard designs, he stressed, “There’s no doubt Apple and Android are coming, but there’s a tremendous disincentive to automakers. They’ve put time and effort into their own designs to make them safe and engaging and to fit into the style and design of their cars. That goes away. They don’t love that. This is a trend they are pushing back against.”

Meanwhile, Experi is making its own strides in working with automakers to help develop a global digital radio standard. One of the challenges OEMs are confronting, he said, is that radio technology is fragmented around the world, with HD Radio in North America; DAB in the EU, Australia and South Africa; and analog still standard around much of the world. “This is a challenge and opportunity for us,” according to D’Angelo. “Automakers want global scale. They want to build one thing and sell it everywhere. If we can harmonize these systems and make it easy for carmakers,” AM/FM has an immediate advantage.

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