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We Were Ready for Some Football: Sports Radio Grabs the October Headlines
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We Were Ready for Some Football: Sports Radio Grabs the October Headlines

In looking at U.S. radio listening trends in October, it’s clear that Americans were, indeed, ready for some football—and some baseball in select pennant-chasing markets. Sports radio, already on the uptick as we reported last month, shot upward in October, setting several records along the way. Seasonality was readily apparent in the portable people meter (PPM) results for many of America’s top formats, just as the bright colors of autumn that now adorn the hills are impossible to miss.

The October listening trends for several major formats were consistent with those in September. News/Talk posted another solid month of gains coming out of the seasonal low-point of summer, while both Country and Classic Hits continued to cool from their summertime highs.

But Sports was the headline story this month, as it gained nearly a full share point, increasing from a 4.5 to 5.4-share (5.4% of the listening audience) among all listeners aged 6+ and from a 5.1 to a 6.0-share among audiences 25 to 54. These gains represent the largest single-month increases for the format since the PPM markets came online in late 2010. They also represent new audience share records for Sports. Notably, among audiences 6+, the audience share for this format has only been above a 5 two other times in PPM measurement: in October 2013 and November of 2013.

Seasonal Share of Sports Listening (Audiences 6+)

Month 2011 2012 2013 2014
August 3.9% 4.1% 4.2% 4.1%
September 4.3% 4.3% 4.5% 4.5%
October 4.9% 4.9% 5.1% 5.4%
Source: Nielsen

Also in the spoken word arena, News/Talk saw a rise in audience share for the second straight month, keeping with a similar annual cycle of increased ratings during the fall (see the chart below). The audience share for News/Talk grew to 9.1%, the first time News/Talk has been above a 9-share since March. October also marked the format’s second-best book of the year, falling just behind January (9.3%), a month that brought a heavy doses of winter weather across many parts of the country. If some of the farmer’s almanac forecasts hold true again this winter, News/Talk tune-in could benefit if we see more blizzards and polar vortexes.

Seasonal Share of News/Talk Listening (Audiences 6+)

Month 2011 2012 2013 2014
August 10.4% 9.5% 8.9% 8.5%
September 10.5% 9.9% 9.0% 8.8%
October 10.6% 10.4% 9.5% 9.1%
Source: Nielsen

Below are some additional headlines from Nielsen’s October PPM data across 45 markets* using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart audience shares.

  • October was a good month for several of the most-popular Spanish-language formats in PPM markets. Mexican Regional, the No. 1 format among Hispanic radio listeners nationwide, saw growth with listeners aged 6+ (going 3.6%-3.7%), 18-34 (increasing from 4.9% to 5.2%) and 25-54 (growing from 4.4% to 4.6%). Elsewhere, Spanish Contemporary had its best month of the year with listeners 25-54, hitting a 2.6-share in October. This is the format’s best showing in that demo since September of last year (2.7).
  • The Country downtrend has now extended into a third consecutive month. As we reported last month, listening trends in August and September marked the first time in recent memory that Country’s growth slowed significantly after growing on a sustained basis for several years. October marks the third consecutive month of declining shares. Among listeners 6+, the trend has tracked 8.4%-8.3%-8.2%; among audiences 18-34, 10.1%-9.8%-9.5%; and for 25-54 year-olds, 8.2%-8.2%-8.0%. We haven’t seen many instances of three consecutive down months for Country in PPM. It’s only happened a handful of times in the 18-34 and 25-54 demos, and never among listeners 6+. With the impact of holiday music just over the horizon—which tends to affect Country the most of any major format—the jury is still out on what kind of year 2014 will turn out to be for Country.
  • Lastly, listening trends in October suggest that the highs that Classic Hits experienced over the summer was likely tied to seasonality more than anything else. Overall, listening for the format dipped below a 5-share for the first time since January, posting a 4.9-share in October. And, more tellingly, among listeners 18-34, Classic Hits has trended 3.8%-3.7%-3.3% over the past three months, falling back to pre-summertime levels.

October 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 (12.3%) Pop CHR (9.0%)
Country (8.2%) tie Country (9.5%) Country (8.0%)
Pop CHR (8.2%) tie Hot AC (7.3%) Hot AC (6.9%)
AC (6.9%) Rhythmic CHR (6.5%) AC (6.6%)
Hot AC (6.3%) Urban Contemp. (5.8%) News/Talk (6.5%)
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

*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.