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Dashboard Roles of Google, Apple Discussed

Nielsen digital audio measurement also among big topics this spring

Radio’s place in the connected car and in cellphones — including Apple devices — was big news at the spring NAB Show. So too were NextRadio and Nielsen’s plans to launch a digital audio measurement service. What follows concerns these topics. News about HD Radio is on page 10.


“Radio needs to be wherever people are consuming content,” said Roger Lanctot, associate director global automotive for Strategy Analytics, in an interview, whether it means streaming, broadcast or pre-recorded material.

“Whatever it is, radio’s got to be in the game — now.”

That being said, he continued, “The experience in the car is getting increasingly confusing” with a growing variety of options; yet consumers “keep coming back to radio” in the vehicle.

He presented data from a survey at an NAB Show session. Nearly eight in 10 respondents — 79 percent — described radio as a “must have” in the car. Seventeen percent said they were “interested” in having the feature, while 4 percent were not interested in having radio in the car.

Nearly eight in 10 survey respondents described radio as a “must have” in the car, according to Strategy Analytics data.

Interest in CD players was second (58 percent), smartphone apps were in the middle at 37 percent, while satellite radio was 28 percent, Internet radio 17 percent and HD Radio was 12 percent. All figures in the study are for the U.S.

Those who listen to AM/FM daily also do so with other sources as well; for example, 84 percent of those who listen to HD Radio also listen to AM/FM. Internet radio is “not yet” poaching listening from broadcast radio, according to findings; 76 percent who listen to Internet radio also listen to AM/FM daily.

While CDs came in second, interest in them is falling off rapidly in favor of iPods or music played on the driver’s smartphone, according to the data. RW reported from the winter CES show that the number of CD receivers shipping in new cars or as aftermarket offerings continues to decline, mirroring younger consumer’s preference for music downloads.

Access to smartphone apps through the vehicle human machine interface is becoming increasingly important. In fact, 37 percent of respondents consider smartphone apps a “must have” feature for their next car.

Lanctot said the survey reveals that “radio is still the core, the backbone, the thing that people need to find out what’s going on around them locally,” like news, weather, traffic and sports.


While many automakers and aftermarket manufacturers are accommodating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment system controls, the two tech companies won’t dominate the dashboard, according to Lanctot. “They will not take over listening and content consumption in the car. They will play a role,” he told Radio World

A graphic tweeted by NAB Labs. (The data points are updated and thus may differ slightly from those discussed in the accompanying text.)
Credit: Courtesy NAB

That’s because many automakers favor their own proprietary infotainment systems, like Chevy MyLink or CadillacCue. Automakers want to provide “the user experience that is infused and enriched with contextual information about the consumer and the car,” said Lanctot. An automaker provides tools to allow the customer to “manage the experience” and lets the car manufacturer “control the experience so that it serves their purposes, not Apple and Google’s purposes.”

He also predicted that tuner knobs will go away and be replaced by touchscreens.


While the number of smartphones available with FM reception capability in the U.S. is growing, the radio industry has a ways to go on this issue. Proponents believe radio must be on smartphones to remain relevant because of the ubiquity of those devices.

Close to 20 percent of smartphones sold in the U.S., as of the fourth quarter of 2014, were fully FM-enabled, according to NAB Senior Director New Media Technologies Skip Pizzi during a Broadcast Engineering Conference session. About 8 million devices with enabled FM chips were sold per quarter last year, he said.

Around 67 percent, or two out of three, have an installed FM chip that is not enabled. Eight percent had the chip enabled in countries other than the U.S.; chip information was not available for the remaining 6 percent. The numbers are based on preliminary teardown data from NAB Labs and ABI Research.

Seventy-five percent of smartphones with inactive FM functionality are Apple iPhones, according to Pizzi.

Meanwhile, with funding from various broadcasters, the Emmis-owned NextRadio industry initiative is paying Sprint $15 million a year for three years to embed the NextRadio app in at least 30 million devices. Sprint has enabled FM on 38 device models to date. Emmis developed the app at the behest of NAB Labs.

“We need other carriers [as well as] Apple,” to put FM capability in smartphones, Pizzi said. He noted that in most cases, if a phone doesn’t come with FM capability enabled, the user can’t do anything about it. The exception is the HTC One M8 from Verizon; consumers can download the NextRadio app to get FM on their phone with this model.

He cited other benefits of activating chips. FM listening uses far less battery life than streaming; it has no impact on data use, and it provides emergency alerts.

We’ve reported that NAB encounters pushback from carriers, who want customers to pay to stream audio. Hence, FM tends to be enabled on lower-end smartphones sold overseas to areas with limited streaming options.


The Apple iPhone is a special case, Pizzi said. Whereas a number of phones do not have FM functionality enabled as a choice of the wireless carrier, the iPhone does not offer this functionality globally, per a decision by the manufacturer. NAB Labs’ teardown analysis found that all iPhones since the 3GS use a connectivity chip that includes FM receiver capability but FM function is not enabled in the hardware.

Apple has enabled FM on its iPod Nano to take advantage of HD Radio iTunes Tagging.

Asked again about Apple’s reluctance to embrace FM, NextRadio President Paul Brenner said the tech company seems to view radio as a “very legacy, non-sexy medium.”

Like other manufacturers and carriers, Apple worries whether the radio industry can unite and publicize the FM chip and NextRadio app, Brenner said. Radio needs “to walk in with a wheelbarrow full of innovation, and we bring a pail. … We need to make them feel like we’re not riding their back” to get that innovation. “It’s on us, broadcasters, to make this happen.”

He said talks with Apple and with other carriers besides Sprint are ongoing.


The NextRadio app drew support from several speakers.

FM access in smartphones during emergencies struck a chord with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who supported the concept of activation of FM on handsets, without mentioning the word “mandate.” FEMA Assistant Administrator of the National Continuity Program Damon Penn reiterated the agency’s support for FM-enabled cellphones, saying the phone you’re holding could be an “extremely valuable” tool during a disaster.

Roger Lanctot, associate director, Global Automotive, Strategy Analytics, described the concept as a “game-changer” because the app enables “searchability.”

“So now you have the ability to see what’s playing on another station” in the market by looking at the album art or other metadata “without actually going to that station,” according to Lanctot. Or the images might convince a listener to listen to the other station “as opposed to repeatedly hitting the ‘seek’ button,” he said.

The average length of time someone listens to a station through NextRadio is now about 18 minutes, rising to 21 minutes on weekdays. People normally listen to more than one station.

NextRadio is currently on some 2.5 million smartphones. Emmis Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Smulyan reiterated to Wall Street analysts shortly after the show that the figure will increase to 300 million, without specifying when.


Nielsen intends to launch a streaming audio measurement service “to measure the growing amount of activity on your stations” and “to make sure we measure the totality of your listening experience,” said Nielsen SVP of Digital Jeff Wender.

The product will track over-the-air streaming audio, on-demand audio, podcasting and other forms of digital audio content like text or video.

“We’ve been asked how we would” measure all of a station’s digital content, he said, adding that the service won’t use diaries or its Portable People Meter.

The audience research firm plans to use a Nielsen software development kit that the company uses now to measure online video consumption. Customers would place the Nielsen SDK measurement software into applications that stream digital audio such as the media player of their streaming app or web browser; the goal is to measure listening “as close to the consumer as possible,” said Wender.

The Nielsen digital audio report would include four metrics: reach, including number of listeners, sessions or quarter-hours; demographics, including gender and age by daypart; duration, including time spent listening; and location, by Metro or DMA.

Discussing a smartphone displaying an ESPN Radio app as an example, Wender said when a listener presses the button for “98.7 MHz” and streams that audio, with this methodology, Nielsen captures the station ID, listening duration, a time stamp and an advertiser identifier.

Nielsen audio clients are integrating, certifying and receiving preview data. The system is Media Ratings Council-accredited and “the official launch is coming soon,” he said.