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The Highs and Lows of March’s PPM Listening Shares for Radio’s Top Formats
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The Highs and Lows of March’s PPM Listening Shares for Radio’s Top Formats

March brings big swings in temperature as the seasons begin to change. And on the radio, the month brought highs and lows in portable people meter (PPM) listening shares across formats to round out the first quarter of the year. While some programmers topped or repeated their record-setting results from February to finish the quarter strong, other formats saw shares dip to historically low marks.

Classic Rock hit a new high in March, exceeding its previous listening share records across all three demographics, while Urban Contemporary matched some of the high-water marks it set in February. Following the trends from February, Country and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) both had their best March results since the start of PPM measurement in 2011, which propelled them to their best historical first-quarter showings, too.

On the other hand, Hot Adult Contemporary (AC), finally let off the accelerator after three consecutive record-breaking months, but still finished the quarter with its’ all-time best listening share. Shares for spoken word also dipped slightly this month as old man winter finally loosened his grasp, bringing fewer storms to the major markets that had helped spike listening levels in February. And AC ended the quarter at its lowest share level in PPM history.

Below are some highlights from Nielsen’s March 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.

  • Classic Rock eclipsed last summer’s record listening shares by finishing with new highs across all three demographics in March. The format posted a 4.6 share (for listeners aged 6+), 3.9 share (18-34) and 5.2 share (25-54). For context, this is only the second time Classic Rock has posted better than a 5-share in the 25-54 demo, with the first month being this past January. And the format is on a roll even among 18-34 listeners, ranking ahead of all other rock-based formats in March by more than a full share point.
  • Urban Contemporary saw its shares with listeners aged 18-34 and 25-54 hold steady this month (5.9 and 3.5, respectively) as it tied February’s record highs in those demos. This means 2014 is off to a very good start for a format that had its best PPM year ever in 2013.
  • Pop CHR and Country both set records for listening in February, and they continued the trend in March. Both formats’ again logged their highest shares for PPM measurement in the month going back to 2011. And the first-quarter rollup for both Pop CHR and Country reveals these formats are all off to their best start of any year since PPM rolled out nationwide.
  • Lastly, AC went the other direction to begin the year: after two straight years with at an 8.0 share (listeners aged 6+) in first quarter, the nation’s number-one ranked format for cumulative listening opened 2014 by posting a 7.4 share in January, February and March. This marks the lowest first quarter for AC in PPM measurement.

Quarterly PPM Listening Share (Persons 6+)

Format Q1 2011 Q1 2012 Q1 2013 Q1 2014 (ranked)
Pop CHR 7.90% 7.80% 8.10% 8.40%
Country 6.80% 7.10% 7.40% 7.80%
AC 8.60% 8.00% 8.00% 7.40%
Hot AC 3.70% 5.40% 5.40% 5.90%
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 Hit Radio. AC—Adult contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

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

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.0%) Pop CHR (12.4%) Pop CHR (9.1%)
Pop CHR (8.4%) Country (9.5%) Country (7.6%)
Country (7.9%) Rhythmic CHR (7.1%) AC (7.1%)
AC (7.4%) Hot AC (6.8%) Hot AC (6.6%)
Hot AC (5.9%) AC (6.2%) News/Talk (6.3%)
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 Hit Radio. AC—Adult contemporary.
Source: Nielsen