Seasonal Influence: How Radio Listening Trends Change with the Weather

Seasonal Influence: How Radio Listening Trends Change with the Weather

There’s no mistaking the impact that a change in seasons has on consumer behavior. It affects the clothes we shop for, the décor in our houses and the music we listen to. And in looking at Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) ratings each month, it’s clear that seasonality affects what audiences are listening to on the radio as well.

This past July we highlighted record-breaking growth in Country, enough so to declare the warmer months of 2013 as the “Summer of Country.” We also saw Rock, Hot Adult Contemporary and Urban Contemporary make headlines as well. Now, as we move into the heart of the fall, we’re seeing spoken word audiences are reacting, too.

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

  • Sports Radio Records: After Sports stations came out of the dead of summer (a historically low point for sports programming) with a positive turn-around last month, they recorded significant increases in listener shares again in October. In fact, the format set an all-time high this month for audience shares in PPM markets in both the 6+ (5.1 share) and 25-54 (5.8) demos. Sports also saw its shares grow by double-digit percentages across all three age ranges. Fueled by fall football and the Major League Baseball playoffs, interest in sports on the radio dial has never been higher.
  • News Remains Open: The news arena is also having a big fall, after slumping a bit during the summer, and is now rebounding as vacations end and newsmakers and consumers settle back into more regular work patterns. Last year, Hurricane Sandy and the election season moved the needle on news radio. This year, the lead-up to the two-week government shutdown drove up the shares for News/Talk by 6 percent across all three of the demos we examined in October.
  • Hot Adult Contemporary’s Run of Success: If it seems that Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC) has been trending hot for some time, it’s because it has. Through October, Hot AC has achieved the best five-month stretch of 6+ shares (5.7) since we began tracking format trends in PPM markets in 2011; posted the best three-month performance in the 18-34 demo (6.4 share) over that same time period; and garnered the best five-month stretch for 25-54 audience shares (6.3) since these trends began.

In addition to these headlines, we observed a few other notable results in the October data.

  • Will Urban Cap its Biggest Year?: Mirroring the sustained run of success that Hot AC is enjoying, Urban Contemporary has now recorded 12 consecutive PPM months of 18-34 shares above a 5 (5.2 in October), after only topping this mark once in 23 books going back to the beginning of 2011. If the November results hit the same benchmark, Urban Contemporary will have attained at least a 5 share in PPM surveys for an entire calendar year, for the first time.
  • Mexican Regional’s Rebound: Mexican Regional rebounded in October with a strong showing in the 18-34 demographic. Far and away the No. 1 choice among Hispanic audiences, this format’s overall 18-34 share in October (5.7) was its best showing since May and third-best month so far this year. It currently ranks sixth among all formats on the national 18-34 ranker, just behind Hot AC and slightly ahead of Urban Contemporary.

October 2013 PPM Markets Top Five Formats
by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.5%) Pop CHR (12.4%) Pop CHR (8.7%)
Pop CHR (8.1%) Country (9.2%) Country (7.7%)
Country (7.9%) Rhythmic CHR (7.0%) AC (7.3%)
AC (7.3%) Hot AC (6.4%) News/Talk (6.8%)
Hot AC (5.7%) AC (6.3%) Hot AC (6.2%)
AC–Adult Contemporary; Pop CHR–Pop Contemporary Hit Radio. 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.