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Video could soon dominate in-car entertainment

Self-driving cars are coming. And people are going to be looking for something to do with their eyes when they no longer have to be on the road.

At Music Biz 2018, an annual conference devoted to monetization of the music industry, executives discussed the potential for video to dominate in-car entertainment once autonomous vehicles are in everyone's driveway.

"Absolutely, video is going to play a stronger role," said Jim Buczkowski, a technical fellow and director at Ford Motor Co.

Driverless car technology "opens up a lot of possibilities" for studios and programmers, Buczkowski said, though he acknowledged that creating video specifically for cars has had its challenges. As an example, he pointed to satellite radio provider Sirius XM Holdings Inc.'s attempts to offer video in the car. He said the company found that matching a piece of content with a commute time was hard because there was no easy way to know exactly when the commute would end. But newer technology is making commute time predictions more accurate, which should help.

"The average car journey is not long enough thankfully to watch a movie, so snackable content will come into the car and give us a great way to watch small segments of video, maybe three or four minutes each," said Brian Hamilton, senior vice president and general manager of music and auto for Nielsen Holdings' Gracenote unit.

Buczkowski agreed, noting that short content for very young children and sports have already proven to be successful genres for in-car entertainment. He said that watching music videos will also likely be even more popular in the cars of the future.

Of course, just as everyone in a car doesn't appreciate the same music, passengers are also going to have different tastes in video. To accommodate these differences, new vehicles likely will have additional hardware.

"I think we are going to see half a dozen or more screens," Hamilton said. "I think we are also going to see different zones where people can watch different content at the same time."