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A Record-Setting February, and Not Just for Snowfall
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A Record-Setting February, and Not Just for Snowfall

Across the continental U.S., Spring has started to make its annual appearance, likely a welcome change for many—especially those in parts of the Northeast—after one of the coldest and snowiest winters in the history books. But weather wasn’t the only record-breaker this winter. Records fell left and right in both the spoken word and music arenas on radio according to Nielsen’s February portable people meter (PPM) data.

Following up a record-breaking month in January, Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) upped the bar once again in February with new all-time highs for listening share in three different demographics (6+, 18-34 and 25-54). Urban Contemporary also set records’ of its own across the board, and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) and Country had their best February showings yet.

At the same time, the All News format, found mostly in major markets, matched its historic best, as several major winter storms impacted Americans across the country. Across the dial, however, Sports radio followed its annual pattern of a February soft patch, with the meat of the NFL playoff push in the rearview mirror, and the arrival of March Madness and baseball’s opening day still on the horizon.

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

  • Hot AC just keeps getting hotter. Following its best year ever in PPM markets in 2013, January set records for the format across all three demographics, which were topped by the February results of 6.1 share for listeners 6+, 6.9 for 18-34 and 6.8 for 25-54, all up from the previous months’ 5.9 , 6.7 and 6.6, respectively. This format has grown tremendously in the past few years—increasing 65 percent since February 2011, when Hot AC’s 6+ share was 3.7.
  • Urban Contemporary built on a record-setting 2013 by setting new highs across all three demographics in February. The format posted a 3.2 share (listeners 6+), 5.9 share (18-34) and 3.5 share (25-54), respectively.
  • The All News headline this month was its 3.1 share (for listeners 6+), tying its all-time record set in November 2012 during the last Presidential election. Since the Holiday 2013 survey, All News shares have grown nearly 25 percent during this historic winter.
  • Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) and Country, two of the leading formats nationwide, also had good February showings with a few records of their own. Each format had its’ best February on record in the PPM markets across all three demographics. Over the past two years, these formats have battled it out for the unofficial ‘format of the year’ honor, and 2014 is shaping up to be another interesting race based on the first two months of data.
  • Finally, the Sports format hit its seasonal soft patch in February, with 6+ shares dropping by a full share point from the January results (to 3.7 from 4.7). This follows the same pattern we’ve seen for Sports in each February of the previous three years. However, if history holds true again in 2014, the start of the Major League Baseball season will likely boost listening levels as we head into the spring and summer.

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

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.1%) Pop CHR (12.7%) Pop CHR (9.2%)
Pop CHR (8.5%) Country (9.3%) Country (7.6%)
Country (7.8%) Rhythmic CHR (7.1%) AC (7.2%)
AC (7.4%) Hot AC (6.9%) Hot AC (6.8%)
Hot AC (6.1%) AC (6.3%) News/Talk (6.3%)
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult contemporary.
Source: Nielsen