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November Radio Trends and the Approaching Jingle of the Holidays

4 minute read | December 2013

With Thanksgiving officially in the rearview mirror, the airwaves over the next five weeks will undoubtedly have a different ring to them than they did the rest of the year. It’s the holidays, which means that all of the traditions, habits and lifestyle changes that we’re accustomed to this time of year will quickly take center stage—including what we listen to on the radio.

When we examine the audio landscape each month by analyzing our portable people meter (PPM) data, we see how seasonality affects what audiences listen to on the radio. And as we break down the November results, we’re well aware that radio trends leading into Thanksgiving are typically much different from the ones that pick up as soon as the last drumstick disappears.

In late October, we reported how spoken word formats made a big rebound coming out of the summer and noted the sustained run of success for both Urban Contemporary and Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC) in 2013. We see many of those same trends in the November data, but we also found some significant changes in audience composition for Country and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) compared with what we saw in November 2012. That said, however, everything is about to change because the impact of Christmas is just around the corner.

Below are some highlights from Nielsen’s November PPM data across 45 markets* using the full-week (Mon-Sun 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart and audience shares for the 6+, 18-34 and 25-54 demographics.

  • Country’s Youth Movement: 2013 has been the biggest year for the Country music format ever. It’s been setting records both nationally and in the PPM markets for listening shares for some time, and skyrocketed to new highs over the summer by growing its share by double digits in only a few months. A big part of that growth has come from some of radio’s youngest listeners, as Country has been steadily growing the audience shares among 18-24 and 25-34 year-olds for several years. Now, we’re beginning to see the long-term effects of that trend. In looking at the November ratings of the past two years, we see that Country’s 18-34 shares have grown 25 percent since 2011 (from a 7.5 share to 9.4 today). It’s also been the No. 2 format in the U.S. every month this year, behind only Pop CHR.
  • Pop CHR Matures: While Pop CHR dominates the 18-34 ranker as the No. 1 destination for audiences nationwide, most of this format’s growth is coming from the older, 25-54 demo—the opposite of what we’re seeing with Country. Over the past two years of November ratings, Pop CHR’s 18-34 shares have grown 2 percent (12.2 to 12.5), while the 25-54 shares have increased by nearly 10 percent (8.0 to 8.7). Since the start of 2012, when Pop CHR unseated Adult Contemporary for the top spot, it has quietly and consistently been the No. 1 format for adults 25-54 in PPM markets in every month other than when Christmas music is on the air.
  • Christmas Music Is Coming: If its’ not already floating through the airwaves in your market, the “All Christmas” format will debuting be very soon. Every year we watch the shares spike for the top holiday stations in each market, and you may have noticed that AC (far and away the most popular format to flip to holiday programming this time of year) already gained some ground in November, growing from a 7.3 to 7.5 share with all listeners 6+. But that’s nothing when compared to what the December and holiday ratings will look like. Here’s a look at the overall (6+) changes that occurred between November and December of last year when Christmas music was in full swing. You’ll see that AC jumped dramatically, Country and Hot AC were the most negatively affected by the changes in listening patterns, and Urban and Spanish formats remained flat.

How Christmas Music Affects Major Music Formats

Format Change in Audience Share Nov. to Holiday 2012
Adult Contemporary 76%
Rhythmic CHR Flat
Mexican Regional Flat
Urban AC Flat
Classic Hits -4%
Pop CHR -4%
Hot AC -6%
Country -13%
Source: Nielsen

November 2013 PPM Markets Top 5 Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.4%) Pop CHR (12.5%) Pop CHR (8.7%)
Pop CHR (8.1%) Country (9.4%) Country (7.6%)
Country (7.9%) Rhythmic CHR (6.9%) AC (7.3%)
AC (7.5%) AC (6.4%) News/Talk (6.7%)
Hot AC (5.6%) Hot AC (6.3%) Hot AC (6.1%)
Source: Nielsen


*Nielsen Audio officially has 48 measured PPM markets, but three of them (Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, and San Jose) are included in the larger New York and San Francisco metro areas. Therefore, the listening stats from those markets are included in our study even though we did not break them out separately.

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