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The Heat Is on for the Top PPM Formats in April
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The Heat Is on for the Top PPM Formats in April

With Americans everywhere poised to get their summers going in full swing, radio programmers are dialing in their playlists, events calendars and marketing promotions as we head towards the first long weekend of the season and the official start of summertime listening patterns. And the April highs and lows for portable people meter (PPM) radio listener shares offer some clues as to what summer may hold for several of radio’s most popular formats.

After a brief hiatus from breaking records last month, Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) ramped back up in April, establishing some new high marks with summer just around the corner. And Country (America’s top format in 2013)—with the second highest listener shares for 18-34 and 25-54 year olds—is poised to have another big season on the airwaves. April also saw several notable formats continue to expand their fan base beyond traditional expectations: Classic Rock established an all-time high for 18-34 listening share while Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) once again held the top spot for 25-54 year-olds. And, the return of America’s pastime to the airwaves was a home run for Sports listeners all across the country.

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

  • Country is poised to improve upon its record-setting summer of 2013, when it saw its best audience share numbers in PPM. The format’s April results of 8.1 (for listeners aged 6+), 9.9 (18-34) and 7.9 (25-54) are well ahead of where it stood at this time last year and, in some cases, are just a few 10ths of a share-point away from matching those records set in the middle of last summer. The next few months will tell if 2014 will be another ‘Country summer’ on the radio.
  • In the records department, Hot AC posted new all-time highs this month across all three of the demographics we monitor. What’s more, the format’s 7.1 share among listeners aged 18-34 is the first time Hot AC has ever risen above a 7 point-share in PPM measurement, in any demographic.
  • Classic Rock also improved upon its banner results from March by re-breaking its own record set just last month with listeners 6+ and improving from a 4.6 to a 4.7 share in April. And among audiences aged 18-34, Classic Rock shares remained flat, making the last two months the format’s best ever for that demographic. As we reported last month, this is significant for what many consider to be the ‘oldest’ rock format available on the airwaves today.
  • On the diamond, the Major League Baseball season got underway in April, benefiting flagship stations and sports formats everywhere. Beginning with the fanfare and excitement of opening day, the first month of the season proved a boon for the All Sports format, lifting shares for these stations by around 10% in each demographic.
  • Pop CHR remained the top-ranked format among listeners aged 25-54, which is not an uncommon occurrence. Notably, however, the format has had a 9-share or better each month in 2014. That’s only happened once prior to this year going all the way back to the beginning of 2011. This indicates that this format has grown its popularity with 25-54 year-olds while continuing to dominate with its 18-34 audience.

To get an idea of how the landscape has changed for top music formats with 25-54 year-olds over the past four years, below is a look at the April PPM results going back to 2011. Pop CHR, Country and now Hot AC have increased their shares dramatically while long-time leader Adult Contemporary (AC) has fallen back.

April PPM Listening Share (Persons 25-54)

Format April 2011 April 2012 April 2013 April 2014 (ranked)
Pop CHR 7.5% 8.2% 8.7% 9.0%
Country 7.0% 7.0% 7.4% 7.9%
AC 8.2% 7.6% 7.8% 6.9% tie
Hot AC 4.9% 6.2% 6.0% 6.9% tie
Classic Rock 4.6% 4.4% 4.6% 5.1%
“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 data from those markets are included in these results even though we did not break them out separately.
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen”

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

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (8.7%) Pop CHR (12.1%) Pop CHR (9.0%)
Pop CHR (8.2%) Country (9.9%) Country (7.9%)
Country (8.1%) Rhythmic CHR (7.1%) AC (6.9%)
AC (7.2%) Hot AC (7.1%) Hot AC (6.9%)
Hot AC (6.2%) AC (5.8%) News/Talk (6.2%)
“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 data from those markets are included in these results even though we did not break them out separately.
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen”