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New Year, New Listening Patterns
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New Year, New Listening Patterns

The start of a new year inevitably brings new resolutions and, for many, attempts to counter the effects from the holidays. It’s the same for many audio formats, which feel the impact of holiday programming on ratings from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. Radio programmers are now seeing those trends reverse in the results from the first post-holiday ratings book in Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) markets.

Predictably, some of the major music formats that saw audiences shrink as a result of Christmas music bounced back in January. Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) and Country, reclaimed the top two spots, respectively, in the 18-34 and 25-54 demographics. At the same time, Adult Contemporary (AC) fell from its top spot during the all-Christmas peak.

Elsewhere, Hot AC opened 2014 with a record-breaking month, after closing out its best year ever in 2013. In the spoken word arena, the NFL playoffs and intense stretches of winter weather in many major markets jump-started the results for Sports, All News and News/Talk in January.

Below are some highlights from Nielsen’s January PPM data across 45 markets* using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart and audience shares for the 6+ demographic.

  • Country claimed the title of America’s top national format last year, according to Nielsen’s new Audio Today report, and it opened 2014 with a significant jump in the January PPM results. Country’s 7.7 share in January was 11 percent higher than in the Holiday survey and was its best start to the year since we began following these trends in 2011.
  • Hot AC, fresh from its banner year in 2013, picked up right where it left off by posting its personal highs for listening share in January in the three major demographics we profile (5.9 for listeners 6+, 6.7 for 18-34 and 6.6 for 25-54).
  • Not surprisingly, the three most-popular formats airing Christmas music over the holidays (AC, Soft AC and Classic Hits) all saw their shares decline in January. This change is consistent with trends in previous years. Of note this year, this January’s 6+ shares for AC (7.4) and Classic Hits (4.8) are lower than the formats’ January results from 2010-2012. This follows a season where holiday programming rated lower than it had been in prior years.
  • News/Talk and All News both had big months, as weather made headlines across the country, leaving these programmers eager for even more snow. News/Talk reclaimed the top spot on the 6+ ranker by climbing to a 9.3 share in January, a 15 percent increase from its Holiday rating. All News came within a 10th of a share-point of matching its’ all-time best with a 3.0 share this month, up 19 percent from its Holiday level.
  • Finally, the Sports format had an impressive January as the NFL playoffs were in full swing. This month’s 4.7 share represented a 12 percent jump from the Holiday book, and similar to some of the other formats profiled this month, its January results were the best we’ve seen yet in PPM.

How Post-Holiday Listening Affected Major Music Formats in the January Ratings

Format (6+ share) % change Holiday 13 – January 14
Country 11%
Pop CHR 6%
Rhythmic CHR 4%
Hot AC 3%
Mexican Regional 3%
Urban AC -1%
Classic Hits -6%
Soft AC -36%
AC -39%
Note: 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.
CHR—Contemporary Hits Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

January 2014 PPM Markets Top 5 Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.3%) Pop CHR (12.7%) Pop CHR (9.0%)
Pop CHR (8.2%) Country (9.1%) Country (7.5%)
Country (7.6%) Rhythmic CHR (7.1%) AC (7.1%)
AC (7.4%) Hot AC (6.7%) Hot AC (6.6%)
Hot AC (5.9%) AC (6.2%) News/Talk (6.5%)
Note: 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.
CHR—Contemporary Hits Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen