What exactly is hybrid radio? Why is it also known as “connected radio” in some circles? How does it differ from HD Radio or other modern approaches to radio broadcast?
NAB CTO and EVP Sam Matheny and Xperi’s Joe D’Angelo cover these questions and more in NAB Amplify’s new “Hey, Sam!” Q&A series, tackling the issues of who’s who and what’s what in technology and M&E.
D’Angelo first clarified that “hybrid radio and connected radio are terms that are really interchangeable. They describe the ability to take advantage of the IP connectivity in cars and use it to enhance broadcast discovery and the engagement with broadcast content.”
So what additional capabilities does hybrid radio offer for listeners and broadcasters alike? The connected car is a perfect case study for the marriage of broadcast and IP via Xperi’s DTS Auto Stage, available in 68 countries. This offering D’Angelo says, means more than just robust metadata; it enables stations to broadcast lyrics, local events, and they are laying the groundwork for personalization and recommendations that truly take advantage of the digital dashboards in modern vehicles.
This approach results in what D’Angelo calls a “content-first user experience.” Listeners are also empowered to interact with the interface using voice commands.
Not all hybrid radio is HD Radio.
DTS’ hybrid radio offering is standard agnostic because different countries around the world have adopted different digital radio standards. North America aligned around HD Radio, while most of Europe settled on DAB or DAB+. Others still are without a digital radio strategy.
It’s important to remember that hybrid radio is still in its infancy. D’Angelo recalls the slow adoption rate of HD Radio, especially due to reliance on new car models being released and purchased. Xperi is in talks with 16 OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to expand beyond the Mercedes C, S and EQ class lineups.
When Matheny asked D’Angelo to peer into his hybrid-radio crystal ball, he demurred, but pointed to the uptake of HD Radio and the increased rate of innovation in the vehicle space. After a slower than hoped start, HD Radio is now in 90 million cars driving today, the equivalent of 57% of all new cars.
While the rate of innovation is speeding, it’s still far from a quick journey from idea to implementation in the auto world. There’s an average of two to three years lag time.
“In the next five years, this [hybrid radio] is gonna be a opportunity for broadcasters to exploit,” D’Angelo said.
What’s the hybrid radio offer?
First, D’Angelo highlights that its approach is consistent with other modern media interfaces. “The content first experience is” how consumers interact with smart TVs at home, and now audio is getting in on that game.
Then there’s the benefit of tradition — the broadcast radio backbone is robust and full of choice offerings. In New York alone, D’Angelo points out, there are about 100 HD Radio services available for in-car listening.
For radio stations, D’Angelo argues the upside outweighs the barrier to entry. The leveling of the dashboard is pitting terrestrial radio and streamers like Spotify and Apple Music and Amazon in a new one-to-one challenge.
As far as D’Angelo is concerned, “if broadcast radio wants to compete and do so over broadcast as a distribution pipe, they really need to take advantage of a platform like DTS Auto Stage, so that discovery is as easy and consistent as it is on those pure-digital platforms.”
Want more? The CONNECT pillar at NAB Show covers all things distribution and delivery — and that definitely includes hybrid radio. It’s also the new home of the Broadcast Engineering and IT Conference, which features sessions on hybrid radio, ATSC 3.0, 5G and much more from trusted experts and trailblazing tech pioneers.
But going in on hybrid requires cost outlays that may make some broadcasters pause if the financial incentive isn’t immediately clear. D’Angelo notes that audio is taking its cue from video in this space as well, tapping sponsors for discovery and search as one monetization method. Targeted advertising has also been heralded as a hybrid benefit due to the IP enrichment. Deep-linking or connecting between products (radio shows to podcasts, for example), also is predicted to be fruitful and key to keeping listeners in the broadcast ecosystem.
Now that you’re convinced…
Radio stations that want to start a hybrid presence can lean on Xperi’s, well, expertise, according to D’Angelo. Getting started involves sharing “static information about their radio station, their logo, their call sign, you know, social media links, stream URLs.”
At no cost to the broadcaster, Xperi then curates that information and is able to “harmonize all that data into, into a single interface” delivered to automakers. No “new workflow or equipment” is required to get started.
NAB also has its own best practices guide for competing in the digital dash, which you can learn about here.
Another plus, D’Angelo notes, is hybrid radio enable stations to know a lot more about their listener behavior via “metrics around how people are engaging with their audio programming in the car.” However, D’Angelo says that they aren’t attempting to compete with Nielsen or even get into the granularity achievable from a mobile app. The information will be more generalized, with guidance derived from things like average listening duration, songs that most impact session duration, and others related to audience measurement.
Android Automotive’s implications for DTS Auto Stage and Connected Radio.
Android is an operating system for your phone, whereas Android Automotive is an operating system for your car based on a Linux kernel. It goes beyond infotainment system, handling climate control and navigation.
Google Automotive Services is Alphabet’s suite of automotive applications for this OS. Because Android Auto is open source (unlike Apple’s OS), companies like Harmon are building applications that can also compete with broadcasters in the digital dash.
HEY, SAM! DEMYSTIFYING M&E TECHNOLOGY TRENDS:
From Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to 5G and cloud production, NAB CTO and EVP Sam Matheny tackles the issues of who’s who and what’s what in technology and M&E. Learn all about the technologies that are shaping our rapidly transforming industry in NAB Amplify’s “Hey, Sam!” Q&A series:
- Hey, Sam! Tell Me About AI and ML Applications for Media
- Hey, Sam! What Is Cloud Production?
- Hey, Sam! What Do I Need To Know About 5G?
- Hey, Sam! How Is Streaming Impacting the TV and Video Marketplace?
Hybrid radio is an evolution of traditional broadcast radio that combines internet connectivity to offer an upgraded infotainment experience in vehicles. The primary benefit to listeners is greater control of their listener experience.
Broadcasters have new ways in which to engage and inform their audiences. They can use the in car displays to show information about their station and programming. It goes beyond just logos and song, title, and artist information. It can mean better targeted and enhanced advertisements on the front end, as well as access to first party audience data on the back end. It also means completely new opportunities like deep linking to on demand content such as podcasts, weather forecasts, news, or sports directly from your station’s channel.