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News/Talk Radio Becomes a Political Powerhouse

3 minute read | March 2016

With heated debates among Republicans and Democrats, as well as the lead up to the first “Super Tuesday” of the presidential election primary season, politics was a hot topic of conversation in February—across the country and on the radio.

And once again, the release of Nielsen’s February portable people meter (PPM) ratings for the U.S. reveals that election-mania has pushed News/Talk to new highs. This format is nearly in double-digit listener share territory— a level it hasn’t been since the last Presidential election in 2012. News/Talk is up two-10ths from January to February (9.7% to 9.9%) among all listeners (aged 6 and older). Listenership for adults 25-54 also climbed two-10ths to a 6.9% share in February while listener share for adults 18-34 remain flat at 4.1%. With more than seven months to go before the election, News/Talk radio should remain a political powerhouse on the radio dial.

News/Talk February Listening Trends

News/Talk Feb-13 Feb-14 Feb-15 Feb-16
Persons 6+ 9.8% 9.1% 9.2% 9.9%
Persons 18-34 4.0% 3.4% 3.8% 4.1%
Persons 25-54 7.4% 6.3% 6.4% 6.9%
Source: Nielsen

The picture is not so rosy for the All Sports format. Shares were down for all demographics in February from January. Without post-season football and all the Super Bowl hype, February tends to be a slow month for the Sports-Talk format. Shares dropped nearly a full point among all listeners 6 and up (5.1% to 4.2%) from January to February. Listener share for adults 18-34 dropped from 3.4% to 3.0% over the same period, while share for adults 25-54 dropped from 5.6% to 4.7%.

Listener share for the All Sports format in February is a full share point lower than it was at the start of football season in October 2015. The good news is that All Sports tends to start a multi-book trend up after February thanks to March Madness, the start of baseball in April and post-season hockey and basketball in May. This was true in 2015 and every prior year we have been tracking monthly format trends in PPM.

All Sports February Listening Trends

All Sports Feb-13 Feb-14 Feb-15 Feb-16
Persons 6+ 3.7% 3.7% 4.1% 4.2%
Persons 18-34 3.1% 3.0% 3.2% 3.0%
Persons 25-54 4.3% 4.3% 4.7% 4.7%
Source: Nielsen

Last but certainly not least, another top story for radio in February was the record-setting format Spanish Contemporary. America’s second most popular Spanish-language format achieved an all-time high share of 2.7% among all listeners (aged 6 and older) since PPM tracking began. The secret to this format’s success can be seen in its growth among adults 25-54, where Spanish Contemporary hit an all-time high share of 3.1% during the month.

Spanish Contemporary Listening Trends

Spanish Contemporary Feb-13 Feb-14 Feb-15 Feb-16
Persons 6+ 2.3% 2.1% 2.4% 2.7%*
Persons 18-34 3.1% 2.5% 2.9% 3.0%
Persons 25-54 2.8% 2.3% 2.8% 3.1%*
Source: Nielsen

February 2016 PPM Markets Top Five Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.9%) Pop CHR (12.5%) Pop CHR (8.8%)
Pop CHR (8.1%) Country (8.3%) AC (7.2%)
AC (7.5%) Hot AC (7.4%) Hot AC (7.0%)
Country (7.2%) Urban Contemporary (6.6%) Country (7.0%)
Hot AC (6.5%) AC (6.6%) News/Talk (6.9%)
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
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 data from those markets are included in these results even though we did not break them out separately.

Data used in this report is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are composed of both English- and Spanish-speaking representative populations.

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