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Scoring the Results of the 2014 ‘All-Christmas’ Format on the Radio
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Scoring the Results of the 2014 ‘All-Christmas’ Format on the Radio

With this week’s release of the holiday portable people meter (PPM)* survey results, radio programmers across the country are tallying the final results of the annual “all-Christmas” format and assessing how holiday music affected their station’s performance. While Adult Contemporary (AC) stations typically lead the ratings pack when it comes to Christmas music, 2014 was a standout year for holiday programming among several leading formats across the nation.

After two consecutive years of declining listener shares in the holiday book, AC reversed course in 2014 by posting higher shares among audiences 6 and older (12.7%), 18-34 (10.4%) and 25-54 (12.0%). This was enough to rank the format No. 1 across the PPM markets in the holiday book for 6+ and 25-54 listeners, and second behind only Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) in the 18-34 demographic.

AC Holiday Book Listening During the Past Four Years (6+ Share)

Holiday 2011 Holiday 2012 Holiday 2013 Holiday 2014
12.8% 12.7% 12.1% 12.7%
Source: Nielsen

But it wasn’t just AC stations that improved their holiday book performances from a year ago. Not only did Hot AC grow its audience in both December and the full holiday 2014 book, but this format’s holiday results (6.6% among listeners 6+, 7.5% among listeners 18-34 and 7.1% among listeners 25-54) were the best it had all year—they also set new all-time highs in PPM measurement. This represents a big turn-around for Hot AC, as it was among the list of formats that saw declining shares during the Christmas programming season just two years ago.

Hot AC Holiday Book Listening during the Past Four Years (6+ Share)

Holiday 2011 Holiday 2012 Holiday 2013 Holiday 2014
4.7% 5.0% 5.7% 6.6%
Source: Nielsen

As things change year-to-year and programmers adopt more (or less) holiday programming, the movement of different formats up and down the ranker as the year ends changes, too. In 2014, the increase in Soft AC was nowhere near as great as it was in the year prior, while Hot AC, Classic Hits and Urban AC all logged more growth this year than in years past.

How Holiday Programming Affected Major Music Formats between November and Year-End (6+ Share)

Format % change Nov ’12-Holiday ’12 % change Nov ’13-Holiday ’13 % change Nov ’14-Holiday ’14
AC                 76%                     61%                81%
Soft AC                 57%                 83%                20%
Hot AC                -6%                 2%                6%
Classic Hits                -4%                 Flat                6%
Urban AC                 Flat                 Flat                2%
Rhythmic CHR                 Flat                 -3%                Flat
Pop CHR                -4%                 -5%                -10%
Mexican Regional                 Flat                 -8%                -14%
Country                -13%                 -13%                -14%
Source: Nielsen

Meanwhile, Country radio’s holiday stocking was mostly filled with coal again in 2014, as the format saw nearly the same percentage decline in listener shares this year as it did in the past two. And while Country remains far ahead of where it was several years back in the holiday survey, the continuing storyline of declining shares to close out 2014 was again evident in this month’s results. Among listeners 6 and older, Country peaked at an all-time high (8.6%) in July before falling to 6.8% in the holiday book, which is the lowest share for the format since the holiday 2012 book.

Country Holiday Book Listening During the Past Four Years (6+ Share)

Holiday 2011 Holiday 2012 Holiday 2013 Holiday 2014
6.4% 6.3% 6.9% 6.8%
Source: Nielsen

One final notable result this month affected the News/Talk format, which is typically the top-ranked format among all listeners 6+ outside of the holiday book. While News/Talk usually sees a decline in the holiday ratings, the format posted the lowest holiday share ever, as well as the lowest share in any PPM measurement month stretching back to the beginning of 2011.

News/Talk Holiday Book Listening during the Past Four Years (6+ Share)

Holiday 2011 Holiday 2012 Holiday 2013 Holiday 2014
9.1% 8.6% 8.1% 7.8%
Source: Nielsen

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

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
AC (12.7%) Pop CHR (11.6%) AC (12.0%)
News/Talk (7.8%) AC (10.4%) Pop CHR (8.5%)
Pop CHR (7.6%) Country (7.9%) Hot AC (7.1%)
Country (6.8%) Hot AC (7.5%) Country (6.9%)
Hot AC (6.6%) Urban Contemp. (6.1%) News/Talk (5.4%)
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.