International study: the driver sees the “free to air” radio as indispensable

Worldwide, radio remains the preferred source of in-car entertainment. So says a new international study by Edison Research. 90 percent of survey respondents believe that every new car should have a radio receiver as standard. This trend is consistent across all age groups.

The survey was conducted in September on more than 6,287 respondents in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, commissioned by WorldDAB in partnership with Radioplayer and sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, Commercial Radio Australia and Xperi. The interviews were with people who have recently bought or rented a new car, or who plan to do so in the near future.

The radio receiver – that is, “free to air,” meaning free over-the-air reception – is the new car’s most valuable standard audio feature (rated “important” at 89 percent), ahead of USB ports (86 percent), and Bluetooth availability. (85 percent) and so-called smartphone mirroring technology (Android Auto achieving 65 percent and Apple CarPlay 54 percent).

Still, the daily use of radio broadcasting among motorists is far superior to any other form of sound. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they “frequently” listen to radio broadcasts in the car, compared to 23 percent for online music streaming services and 15 percent for CDs. 80 percent agree with the following statement: “Radio provides a better in-car listening experience than other types of audio sources.”

The main reason for listening to radio is to “get news and information” (63 percent), followed by “listening to favorite songs” (42 percent). A clear majority do not want to pay for the radio. 93 percent think it is “important” that radio remains free to listen to, as it is now via analog and digital radio tuners. In fact, 82 percent of potential car buyers say they would be less likely to buy or rent a car that doesn’t have a built-in radio tuner.

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The importance of “free to broadcast” radio has been highlighted by motorists’ concerns about data charges for streaming content. A clear majority (70 percent) of respondents who currently listen to audio on their mobile devices say they are “concerned” about the amount of data they are using.

Car buyers were also asked about the most desired value-added radio features. “The ability to search for radio stations using voice control” is the most popular (mentioned by 58 percent of respondents), followed by “providing information about content” (54 percent).

Over-the-air radio usage is still very high among current car buyers: 89 percent said they’ve listened in the past week and 76 percent said they listen at least once a day.

The car remains the most popular radio listening site, mentioned by an average of 89 percent of respondents, followed by 75 percent for listening at home and 39 percent for listening at work.

“This consumer survey covers some of the largest auto markets, but attitudes toward radio among car buyers in all of the countries surveyed were frighteningly similar,” said Tom Webster, senior vice president at Edison Research.

It is also clear that radio broadcasting was specifically chosen as an indispensable option. About two-thirds of drivers in all countries surveyed said they “would not listen to their favorite radio stations” if they were only available online. For consumers, having free, accessible radio as standard is an essential part of the in-vehicle entertainment system and looks set to continue to do so.”

Sophie Baker

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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