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Audio Still Tops for In-Car Entertainment

However, latest DTS/Xperi survey sees gains for video, gaming

When it comes to in-car entertainment, radio remains the king. That’s one finding from DTS’s latest “Connected Car Entertainment Trends” survey.

The connected car online survey queried 3,000 people, aged 18 and older, across the United States in August 2023. Additional data came from a survey on gaming in the car, which was fielded in December 2023 with 500 respondents aged 18 and older.

Nearly 90% of survey respondents said audio was their most frequently consumed form of entertainment in their vehicle. Music was the most consumed for of audio entertainment for 84% of respondents, and 69% of them said AM/FM radio was their preferred music source, followed by 53% who said streaming and 30% who said satellite radio.

[Related: “How Do We Navigate the Future of Automotive Connectivity?”]

In addition to music, nearly a third of respondents said they listened to podcasts in the car and 26% said talk radio. Only 11% of respondents said they did not listen to audio entertainment in the car.

“Consumer perception of the car as a leading ‘third space’ is driving demand for audio, video and gaming,” stated Jeff Jury, senior vice president and general manager of connected car at Xperi.

However, the survey did find that other in-vehicle entertainment options are growing rapidly, particularly video and gaming.

Compared to the previous year’s survey, video watching — primarily streaming movies and television shows — increased 9% among respondents, reaching nearly 40%. One notable finding: Video consumption increases when children are in the car.

The DTS/Xperi survey finds that audio remains the prime medium for in-car entertainment which most of it coming from AM/FM radio. (Courtesy DTS/Xperi)

“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,” stated Jury. “And the emergence of in-vehicle gaming with younger generations, particularly casual games, is indicative of its growing importance to in-cabin entertainment platforms.”

Gaming is rapidly emerging as an in-vehicle entertainment option, according to the report, particularly smartphone-based casual games. Across all age brackets, 28% of respondents said they or someone in their household gamed in the car, but that percentage jumped significantly among Millennials (46%) and Gen Z (38%). Sixty percent of Gen Z and 49% of Millennials noted that most of the gaming would happen in the back seat of the vehicle, which aligns with 43% of all respondents saying their children would play games in the vehicle.

The survey also reaffirmed previous findings that more than half of respondents were willing to pay more for a better in-car entertainment system. While AM/FM radio is rated as the most important feature by 59% of respondents, the survey found that people want more options from their built-in entertainment system, including screens in the front and rear cabins. About a third of respondents wanted an in-car entertainment system that was easier to use.

“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,” concluded Jury.

Asked about other possible developments in automotive technology, 37% of respondents expected electric vehicle sales to overtake gasoline-fueled vehicles within the next five years, 30% expect fully automated self-driving vehicles to become commonplace within that same timeframe, and 19% expect flying cars to become common.

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