After years of dominance, traditional radio has reached a turning point in 2020. Powered by strong usage and desirability among key car-buying groups in China, and increasing usage among key groups in the West, streaming media has continued its march onto the dashboard. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns have also severely curtailed regular commuting journeys, where much of consumers’ radio-listening originates. This has led to a marked decline in AM/FM usage in-car, and a steep decline in interest of radio as a “must-have” feature.

A new report from the Strategy Analytics’ In-Vehicle UX (IVX) service, “2020 Infotainment Report: COVID-19 Brings Challenges for In-Car Radio”, has surveyed car owners across the US, China, and Western Europe to investigate usage of in-car infotainment including AM/FM radio, streaming media, and other sources. 2020 is the year that in-car AM/FM radio has hit the proverbial “iceberg.”

“In terms of daily in-car use, streaming music services and portable owned music have overtaken AM/FM radio in China,” says Derek Viita, report author. Though AM/FM radio is still the most-used in-car source in Western markets, satellite radio and streaming music are close competitors in the U.S. “While radio still has unique advantages, the pandemic has only worked to increase adoption of other media sources. Some radio providers in the West are reporting that their ratings have nose-dived because many of those who listened on their commute have not rejoined from home.”