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Radio’s Ear Candy of the Month: Pop, Rock(s)
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Radio’s Ear Candy of the Month: Pop, Rock(s)

With spring in full bloom across the U.S., radio listening habits are beginning to fall in line with summertime trends. As the weather warms up and winter snowdrifts fade to memories, Nielsen’s March portable people meter (PPM) results show how Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) and Classic Rock continue their recent runs of success and open the debate about which format consumers will flock to this summer.

As we noted last month, Pop CHR doesn’t always grab the headlines—even though it’s consistently one of the most listened-to radio formats across the nation. But in scanning the March results, it’s hard to ignore the upward movement we’re seeing, which is setting the format up for what could be another big summer.

Among all listeners aged 6+, Pop CHR saw the best share (8.7%) since its historic summer of 2012, which was a high point for the format. And while the same story played out with 18-to-34 year-olds (12.8% this month),the real news came in the 25-54 demographic. There, Pop CHR set a new record for listening share (9.5%), and stands a full share point ahead of the results from the Holiday book. In comparing the March trends over the past four years, Pop CHR may be jockeying into position to make another big splash in the summertime ratings after Classic Hits and Country won that race in each of the past two years.

Pop CHR March Listening Trends

Listener Group March-12 March-13 March-14 March-15
Persons 6+ 7.9% 8.3% 8.4% 8.7%
Persons 18-34 12.0% 12.8% 12.4% 12.8%
Persons 25-54 8.1% 8.70% 9.1% 9.5%*
*New record.
Source: Nielsen

Classic Rock is also on the upswing this month, setting new records for share of audience across each of the major listener groups we profile. Already on a high in February, the format broke last month’s records among audiences 6+ (with a 5.2% share in March), 18-34 (4.6%) and 25-54 (5.7%). Each of those are a PPM-best for the format and for comparison, since March of 2012 Classic Rock has gone from being the 11th-ranked format among all listeners 6+ to the sixth-ranked format this month. Among listeners 25-54, it ranked 10th in March of 2012 and ranks fifth this year.

Classic Rock March Listening Trends

Listener Group March-12 March-13 March-14 March-15
Persons 6+ 4.5% 4.7% 5.2% 5.2%*
Persons 18-34 3.0% 3.5% 3.9% 4.6%*
Persons 25-54 4.5% 4.7% 5.2% 5.7%*
*New record.
Source: Nielsen

Below are some additional headlines from Nielsen’s March PPM data using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart audience share numbers.

  • Urban Contemporary is booming again; after a hot finish to 2014 punctuated by the upstart popularity of the old-is-new classic hip-hop trend, Urban moved the bar even higher in March among 18-34 listener shares, establishing a new record in PPM measurement this month (6.4%). The format has been above the 6.0% mark only five times in PPM, and those have come in five of the last six monthly surveys.
  • Country was flat this month among all listeners 6+ (7.6%) and audiences aged 25-54 (7.4%) but saw a slight uptick in its 18-34 numbers, rising to 8.5% in March from 8.4% in February. Not counting the January rebound from the Holiday book–when Country listenership traditionally drops as a result of Christmas programming–this is the first month of 18-34 audience growth that the format has seen since June of last year, ending a downward trend that lasted nearly nine months.

March 2015 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 (12.8%) Pop CHR (9.5%)
Pop CHR (8.7%) Country (8.4%) Country (7.4%)
Country (7.6%) Hot AC (7.4%) AC (7.3%)
AC (7.4%) Urban Contemporary (6.4%) Hot AC (7.2%)
Hot AC (6.6%) AC (6.2%) News/Talk (6.3%)
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.

Data used in this report is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are composed of both English and Spanish speaking representative populations.