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Radio Still Reigns In The Car, But Video Is On The Rise

by July 10, 2024
In Car Gaming

In Car Gaming

DTS and its parent company Xperi just released a new report called “Connected Car Entertainment Trends,” which examines the consumption of entertainment in the car. The company surveyed 3,000 people over the age of 18 across the U.S. in August of 2023 to determine attitudes and habits pertaining to AV in the connected car. Another 500 respondents were surveyed in December of 2023, specifically about in-car gaming. The findings of these surveys helped DTS to deepen its understanding of how Americans listen to audio, watch video, and play games in-vehicle, and the results were presented by DTS and Xperi executives in an Automotive News webinar on June 11th, 2024.

Choosing Radio On Screen

The report indicated that the vast majority of consumers listen to some type of audio in the car, which will surprise nobody. But what did surprise me is that AM/FM radio is still the leading audio source, with nearly 70% of respondents tuning in to listen to music, compared to 53% who use music streaming services like Spotify. Satellite radio is my dad’s go-to, but only 30% of those surveyed use it. Although audio in general is still the dominating form of in-vehicle entertainment, other formats like video and gaming appear to be growing rapidly. Nearly 40% of respondents watch video in the car, up from 31% in a survey taken just one year earlier.

Woman Watching In Car Video

Many respondents (about 35%) consider the vehicle as a “third space” — an environment other than the home or workplace where they can relax or unwind. Among those interested in the vehicle as a third space, streaming movies and TV shows was the top entertainment option. Those who only consume entertainment while running errands or commuting are mostly listening to audio. If these journeys include ferrying kids around, video consumption increases dramatically. The report says that in-vehicle gaming is rising rapidly — particularly casual games like Candy Crush and Pokemon Shuffle Mobile. (Good luck getting my nephews into the car without their Nintendo Switches — it’s not gonna happen.) While Generation Alpha kids are happy to play more involved games in the car, the 46% of Millennials who game in the car save more complicated games for their PlayStation or Xbox consoles.

Consumer perception of the car as a leading “third space” is driving demand for audio, video, and gaming. Audio continues to dominate, confirming radio’s importance as vehicle entertainment’s anchor. But, the growing impact of video is clear, not only in its dramatically increased usage but also in consumers’ increased interest in front and rear cabin screens. And the emergence of in-vehicle gaming with younger generations, particularly casual games, is indicative of its growing importance to in-cabin entertainment platforms.

— Jeff Jury, Senior VP and General Manager of Connected Car at Xperi

Futuristic Video Dash

More than half of those surveyed said that they’d be willing to pay more for better in-car entertainment when they buy their next car, though AM/FM radio is still the most important entertainment option for consumers when considering their car purchase, according to the survey. But the report also said that video capability can increase a consumer’s likelihood of buying a particular vehicle, and that the 25% year-over-year growth of in-car video consumption was a significant finding. (As a provider of in-car entertainment tech to OEM customers like BMW and Ford, it behooves DTS to point out that in-vehicle entertainment impacts vehicle purchase choices). The report also finds that consumers want more customization, more options, and easier-to-use tech in the car. They dislike having to hop from source to source, and they want more screens. Most said they are interested in having screens in the front and rear cabins of their next car (58% want rear-cabin screens, while 54% want front-cabin screens).

Consumers continue to demand a better in-vehicle entertainment experience, including more media choices and formats. Offering more personalized discovery that sifts through content, from audio to video to gaming, to deliver robust entertainment relevant to consumers’ preferences, will be key to that improved experience — and a key differentiator for automakers.

— Jeff Jury

Car Interior with Screens

Another Xperi survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents between the ages of 17 and 44 want video — including live TV and on-demand streaming — as part of their vehicle dashboard/screen entertainment offering. Nearly half of Millennials reported that in-car gaming would be used more by rear-seat passengers if their next car offers gaming features on the built-in screens. For Gen Z respondents, that number climbed to 60%. And to control everything, 40% of those surveyed said they would prefer to use voice commands, while 32% preferred touch screens.

The increasing adoption of our connected car technologies is validation that… they need more from their in-vehicle entertainment experience than a jumble of apps on their dash. They want experiences that are integrated, personalized, and on-trend. Our content-first approach, that can support audio, video, and games, illustrates our platform’s ability to rapidly advance to help automakers enhance and solidify their relationship with their customers by meeting their evolving entertainment needs and preferences.

— Jeff Jury

What Does the Future Hold?

Personally, I’ve always thought of in-car video and gaming purely as something to keep the kids occupied on long journeys. For that application, I think it makes more sense to spend a few hundred bucks on an iPad or Nintendo Switch than to spend (potentially) thousands on a multi-screen in-car entertainment system. As long as a car has Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto — and a great-sounding audio system — I’ll be satisfied. But it seems that my attitudes might be old-fashioned. According to Xperi, 71% of those 25 to 34 want a built-in vehicle entertainment experience that is more than just a mirror of their smartphone. And while it should go without saying that watching video content and playing games is a passenger-only activity when the car is moving, the advent of true self-driving cars will change that one day, perhaps in the next decade. So it makes sense that companies like DTS are doing their best to track the demand and get ahead of the curve. How much does in-car entertainment factor into your car-buying decisions? Do you think of your car as a place to relax? Do you want video and gaming capabilities in your next car? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.


About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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