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Radio Formats with Mass Appeal Are on the Rise in Q1

3 minute read | April 2018

Radio reaches nearly everyone in America, as Nielsen’s most recent Audio Today report detailed. On a weekly basis, 93% of all adults tune in to radio, the most of any platform, and radio has 243 million listeners in a given month. It’s clear that radio has broad appeal for consumers both young and old.

So it’s no surprise that as we judge the results of the March portable people meter (PPM) ratings, several formats that have mass appeal saw rises in listener share during the first quarter of the year. By combining the January, February and March surveys to create a first-quarter data set, both Adult Contemporary (AC) and Classic Hits are seeing very strong results in 2018 compared to past years.

Adult Contemporary is a format that identifies squarely with mass-appeal music. During the holiday months, more AC stations flip to the all-Christmas format than any other which also adds to the overall appeal for those stations. But the general historical trend is for AC to fall back to earth slightly once the Holiday book concludes and the influx of new listeners subsides. This year has been different, however, with AC surging to one of its best starts to the year (post-holiday) that we have seen in PPM measurement, particularly with Millennial audiences (ages 18-34).

Meanwhile, Classic Hits is also moving upwards in the first quarter. This may give a preview for what’s in store this summer when listening habits shift and—in recent years—both Classic Hits and Classic Rock tend to spike. Each year, Nielsen logs the listening increases that occur during the summer months (June, July and August), and we track which format sees the largest spike. Classic Rock (which plays more rock music from the same eras as the more pop-influenced Classic Hits) was the format of the summer in both 2016 and 2017, while Classic Hits took the crown in 2014 and 2015. At current, Classic Hits is seeing its best first-quarter results ever among all three of the demographics we monitor each month.

Finally, expanding on our February analysis of Millennial format preferences over time, the table below trends the first-quarter audience shares for eight of the top music formats in America. Storylines that we noticed last month are also evident when assessing this three-year trend. Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) remains the top format but has declined nearly two full share points since the beginning of 2016. Hot AC and Urban Contemporary are also both down over the same time, while Country is generally flat, AC has spiked, and Classic Hits has now pulled even with Classic Rock.

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

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