Streaming wars: Coming soon to a vehicle near you

Frighteningly, the next battle for entertainment eyeballs will happen on the road.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

The next installment of the streaming wars is coming to a driveway near you. At least if you own a Tesla

Starting in 2020, Tesla's new in-car infotainment center, dubbed Tesla Theater, will feature YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and Bilibili, a Chinese youth-focused entertainment platform. Tesla Theater will be available on all Tesla models globally, including the new Tesla Cybertruck.

"The inside of an automobile is going to become increasingly more of an entertainment opportunity. We are aware that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is serious about creating an in-car infotainment system that provides 'the most amount of fun you can have in a car,'" said Wang Hao, Vice President of Bilibili's Technology Center. "And creating fun is what Bilibili specializes in."

The idea is to use the idle moments spent in the car to serve up content to drivers and passengers. Because we're talking about Teslas, scenarios include waiting for the car to charge at a Supercharger. It's essentially Elon Musk's version of those TVs that are now ubiquitous at gas pumps.

Fortunately, entertainment mode will only be available when the car is parked. A Wi-Fi connection will also be necessary.

Bilibili is an interesting addition to Tesla Theater and highlights the importance of the Chinese market to Tesla. Tesla employs a number of Chinese engineers and the cars are increasingly popular in China as socioeconomic demographics change with the rise of a millionaire class. The first models constructed at Tesla's new Shanghai Gigafactory rolled off the line in late 2019.

The Chinese youth market is especially popular as Tesla seeks to burnish the appeal of its cars. Bilibili has been a pioneer in Chinese youth entertainment and is heavily used by 20 and 30 somethings. The company has championed new ways for the Chinese Gen Z to consume content such as through video mashups, autotune remixes, and virtual idols.

Where Tesla goes, many mainstream auto manufacturers follow. Tesla's big display screens, for example, have inspired a host of copycats in 2020 models from Japanese and American manufacturers. Like it or not, it's a safe bet we'll be seeing more in-car streaming offerings shortly.

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