The German car company Porsche has turned to a British firm to allow passengers to stream film and TV on built-in screens, in a sign of the increasing focus by carmakers on providing content on the move.
A new in-car video streaming function will allow Porsche owners in 56 countries to access their subscriptions with the likes of Disney+ and Amazon Prime, as well as live TV, via a platform run by ScreenHits TV.
The carmaker said its new Cayenne SUV, which launches next month, would allow drivers to watch film and TV on the central display when the vehicle is stationary, and on the passenger display – not visible to the driver – while moving.
Tesla cars have been able to stream video when parked via platforms including Netflix and YouTube since 2019, although other carmakers have taken longer to introduce screens large enough to make in-car viewing worthwhile. Streaming has also been held back by mobile network speeds and costs.
The car industry is gearing up for an explosion in in-car TV watching and other potentially lucrative services as more and more vehicles become able to drive themselves. In the UK, the government last year brought in changes to make it possible to watch films on the motorway, where driving is heavily regulated.
Rose Hulse, the founder and chief executive of ScreenHits TV, said: “The car will become the second biggest screen, outside the house. As more and more people are starting to charge their vehicles, they’re spending more time on the road. That’s where they want to watch their content.”
Autonomous abilities – together with the flat “skateboard” design of many battery electric vehicles – will open the way towards much more immersive entertainment options for cars.
“As those types of cars roll out, which will be in a few years, that’s when watching content in cars is going to increase. This is the future of automotive,” Hulse said. “It’s going to be a full-on home theatre style – probably in the back to start, but it will continue to grow.”
ScreenHits TV, which is backed by investors including the hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, was founded in 2012, and in 2019 it started a service combining streaming services in a single interface. It has 50 employees and is aiming to be profitable this year, Hulse said. It has raised £6m.
Some analysts are sceptical over how fast autonomous technology will take over on the roads, after several companies missed targets for self-driving on public carriageways by years. However, ScreenHits TV is hoping to start recommending content based on how long drivers of electric cars will be spending idle at public charge points.