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Do Streaming Media and Connected Services Mean the End of Radio Listening in the Car?

by Kevin Nolan | Nov 14, 2019

Kevin Nolan presents at EBU New Radio Day 2019

In October 2019, Kevin Nolan, Vice President, Consumer Behavior and UX Research at Strategy Analytics gave a presentation to the European Broadcasting Union's New Radio Day event in Rome, Italy, on the subject of "The Future of Radio in the Car".

During the event, many speakers from the broadcast industry expressed deep concern over the emerging technology and behavioral trends that are set to fundamentally disrupt this space.  Radio is perceived to be under attack on a number of fronts - from vehicle connectivity, embedded platforms such as Google Automotive Services, autonomy etc. - but the key concern often repeated was that younger audiences are abandoning radio in favor of streaming music platforms.  Does this mean that eventually live broadcast radio will die?

Strategy Analytics' research suggests that, at least within the car, reports of the demise of radio are extremely premature.  While younger audiences are certainly shifting rapidly towards music consumption via streaming platforms in general, when it comes to in-vehicle entertainment, radio is still the most listened to source - even among the youngest drivers.  Strategy Analytics' April 2019 survey of 1,700 drivers in W. Europe found that 69% of those aged 18-24 years listen to radio in the car at least once per week - exactly the same percentage as listen to streaming music.

Why do they do this?  We recently conducted a qualitative study with 18 drivers aged between 20-30 years in the UK.  They all have streaming media subscriptions, but 15 out of 18 listen to radio in their cars.  The morning commute to work is the key time when radio is listened to and there are two main factors driving this behavior.

  • The first is convenience. For most drivers, when going to work, time is of the essence.  When they turn on their car, the radio starts to play.  There is no need for them to connect a device, worry about adapters etc. and no need to actively choose what to listen to.
  • However, in addition to this, radio provides value in a number of ways that streaming or connected services cannot.  Especially on the morning commute, a lean-back, curated radio show offers all of the information that listeners need and the entertainment they want in one place.  The 'rolling' nature of morning radio shows means that they can 'dip in and out' without fitting the content around the time available to listen.  Listening to a presenter that they like lifts their mood and provides companionship on a boring drive.  And, they can catch up on news/current affairs and gain insight into what is trending – so they feel productive.

For these reasons, we believe that broadcast radio is extremely well suited to the morning commute.  Many of these drivers choose to listen to streaming music when they drive home in the evening - their personal music choice then can reflect their mood (relaxed if they have had a stressful day, upbeat if they are going out or to the gym). Clearly therefore, within the car, radio and streaming platforms complement each other and provide different experiences for different situations and are very likely to co-exist for the foreseeable future.

For more information about our in-vehicle consumer research, or to arrange a briefing, please contact your nearest Strategy Analytics office.

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