What the future holds for next-generation radio
A view from Mike Hill

What the future holds for next-generation radio

The managing director of Radioplayer shares the result of its two-year project to make the radio experience in cars as good as at home.

At a time when many other sectors of the media are busy erecting paywalls or launching subscription service, making access increasingly difficult, expensive and complicated, the UK radio industry is committed to making radio readily available on as many platforms as possible.

In one of the most radical changes to car radio in decades, the commercial radio sector and BBC has invested in Radioplayer Car, the world’s first voice-controlled radio adaptor that automatically switches between DAB, FM or streaming to locate and provide the best radio listening experience for drivers.

The car radio is the "entertainment button" for drivers and, compared to other listening environments, it’s a unique, intimate and captive personal experience. For advertisers as well as content providers this makes it exceptionally valuable.

Research has shown that car buyers value their radio above every other entertainment source in their car; and that 82% would never consider a car without one. It’s little wonder given how engrained listening to the radio is into the daily routine – 84% of car buyers say that they always or mostly listen to the radio on every journey.

However, up until now, car radio listening has been an experience that hasn’t really changed that much since the FM signal was turned on – a revolution at the time, but one that now looks like just another milestone in radio’s evolution. Car radios have not developed at the pace which listeners have come to expect from their other media touchpoints, meaning that drivers are missing out on the hundreds of new stations that are now available.

For this reason we at Radioplayer, the not-for-profit collaboration between the BBC and commercial radio, decided to embark on an ambitious two-year project to make the driving experience as good as – if not better – than the audio options available within the home.

The result of this project is now unveiled: Radioplayer Car is a ‘smart radio’ system that is easily fitted into the dashboard and connects wirelessly to the driver’s smartphone. The voice control is woken by saying ‘Radioplayer’ then the name of a favourite radio station, which will automatically play on DAB, FM or mobile depending on which platform has the strongest signal.

Finally, listeners can access the huge range and variety of radio content available that we know is important to them. That’s true to our core principles that radio should be Simple, Open and Free – how many other media sectors can claim to be doing the same?

Michael Hill is speaking at Radiocentre’s conference "Tuning In Scotland", with the theme: 'Seeing Radio Differently' in Edinburgh today