What lessons can OEMs learn from Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ in the connected car era?

Netflix has a clear vision of what its viewer experience should be and sticks to it. I wonder if automotive OEMs need to adopt a similar level of razor-sharp focus as they enter the era of the connected car? What can the automotive industry learn from digital services?

If there is one thing that the big success stories of our time have in common, it is a clarity of vision as to what the end user experience should look like. It’s a way of thinking that Amazon refers to as “working backwards”. Netflix is no exception. Its focus on QoS drives it to get viewers to content as quickly as possible, cutting out the time they would otherwise spend on loading an app and searching for content. This extends beyond the app, the company pioneered the idea of having a button on remote controls that immediately opens its app.

Netflix’s user experience is consistent on almost all devices. It is determined to be the best and the biggest in the world at VoD. Its primary way of achieving this goal is to provide its users with the very best possible video experiences, and this laser-focussed approach is at the heart of every decision it makes.

So how does this translate into automotive? Do OEMs have the same level of vision when they think about IVI and in-car entertainment? There’s no doubt that they should, as all the evidence suggests that we’re well on the road to a major change in the way drivers and passengers interact with their cars. According to Counterpoint Research, 75% of cars will be connected to the Internet by 2025. Through integrated eSIMs, better mobile coverage and the advent of 5G, cars will become connected hubs (you can read more in this blog from my colleague Paul Krammling).

Connectivity is a game changer and increased coverage and bandwidth will transform the driving experience into an entertainment experience. OEMs need to prepare now to make sure they are ahead of the curve and can capitalise on new post-sale relationships that are based on digital and connected services. For evidence of how transformational the change will be, look no further than Disney which has recently restructured its entire business around Disney+ and its other content apps.

It’s not just Disney that is moving to connected services, of course. The streaming wars are in full flow with the likes of HULU, Tubi, Pluto TV, IMDbTV, Peacock and HBO Max set to be joined by Paramount+ in battling for viewer attention. All of these apps have a vested interest in increasing viewing time and the connected car is a rare greenfield opportunity in this respect. For content providers being available to early adopters, just like Netflix pioneered streaming video to the home, gives the opportunity to learn and adapt to the new environment, and evolve as the industry moves to an even more immersive environment when autonomous driving becomes normal.

For OEMs, there is a clear opportunity to capitalise on in-car entertainment, but to succeed they must ensure they have the right approach from the outset, including:

  1. Maintaining control of the user experience
    This is pretty much a necessary condition for success, and it will be a key differentiator as streaming within in-car infotainment will turn into a hygiene factor at some point.
  2. Make sure you own the user data and protect it
    Data is gold in the connected car. Make sure users remain customers long after they’ve purchased the car. OEMs need to build the relationship to ensure owners stay with the brand when it’s time to buy or “subscribe” a new car.
  3. Create lowest hurdles possible for people to use (and subscribe to) a service
    Introducing something new will create the biggest impact if people can get to it without hassle and in a smooth and clear process. Simple sign in, simple packaging, fewest steps to get going.
  4. Place the essentials of an experience first in your decision-making
    Give the users access to the right services for them, without fuss. Follow a clear vision and the rest will come.

A last point is that getting the business model right is also important to long-term success. Car makers can learn from the clarity and flexibility of subscription-based services to make sure they have a timely and valid offering to suit people’s expectations on day one.

For an example of what can happen if you get the business model wrong, look at the backlash faced by the English Premier League when it recently announced pay-per-view plans at $19 per match. Meanwhile, the UK’s digital advertising body, the IAB, revealed that television is the only form of advertising that has seen growth in 2020. Such resilience is starting to drive a surge in the popularity of AVOD and FAST channels as viewers reach their monthly subscription limits.

Lastly, it is not only in IVI where user data can provide valuable insights, but to the overall way we own and drive a car. If, as many commentators are to be believed, we’re moving towards a car-as-a-service way of working then user data will be critical.

So, work backwards to move forwards: it will make user experience decisions so much simpler if there is a clear focus on the end goal.

Find out how ACCESS Twine™ for Car (Twine4Car) brings content to vehicles within a branded IVI interface on the ACCESS Europe website.

About the author:

Robert is VP Product Management at ACCESS Europe GmbH, with a focus on HTML5 platforms and media sharing solutions, including industry specific extensions such as HbbTV and W3C Vehicle APIs, so that ACCESS customers can deploy standards based state of the art products. He has been involved in projects with major customers in both automotive and TV and ensures a customer focused development strategy for ACCESS. His role involves working with telcos, middleware suppliers, STB OEMS, automotive tier 1s and automotive OEMS to ensure that ACCESS products deliver the features needed in these fast evolving markets. Follow him on Twitter / Linkedin