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Seasonal Patterns Rule the Day in the November Radio Ratings
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Seasonal Patterns Rule the Day in the November Radio Ratings

With another holiday season just around the corner, everything is starting to look and sound a lot (more) like Christmas, including on the radio airwaves. Over the next few days, hundreds of radio stations around the U.S. will be adopting their annual “all-Christmas” format in the run-up to December 25. Last year, more than 500 stations flipped to holiday programming, an all-time record.

This week’s release of the Nielsen November portable people meter (PPM) ratings hints of what’s to come in the Adult Contemporary genre. Both Adult Contemporary (AC) and Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) posted some of their best November results this month, and are expected to climb even higher as the holiday music season kicks off.

Meanwhile, we’re also comparing back to last month when Sports radio knocked some ratings records out of the park. In November Sports maintained its hot streak and even managed to take down another record by posting its best-ever share of audience (6.1%) among adults 25-54. This seasonal upswing has become more and more pronounced as the years have gone on, and looking back to 2012, Sports radio has increased its share of audience by 15% in both the 6+ and 25-54 demographics.

Sports November Listening Trends 2012-2015

Sports Nov-12 Nov-13 Nov-14 Nov-15
Persons 6+ 4.7% 5.1% 5.4% 5.4%
Persons 18-34 4.0% 4.1% 4.1% 4.0%
Persons 25-54 5.3% 5.8% 6.0% 6.1%*
*Record.
Source: Nielsen

On the music front, Hot AC had a strong November by matching record highs for listener share with both audiences 18-34 (7.7%, tying the mark last set in July 2015) and 25-54 (7.3%, also tying July’s results). November 2015 was easily the format’s best November in PPM measurement, and sets Hot AC up for another strong holiday season. Last year it was the third fastest-growing format as a result of Christmas programming, and the chart below tracks Hot AC’s consistent growth over time in PPM markets.

A similar trend emerged with mainstream AC this month, as the format posted its best November results in several years. As the format that programs the most “all-Christmas” stations and also reaps the most ratings benefits year-after-year, AC is expected to grow at the end of each year. In 2014, AC marked an upswing around the holidays after two years of declining listener shares, and the format is currently positioned to improve on those results over the next few months.

Adult Contemporary (AC) November Listening Trends

Sports Nov-12 Nov-13 Nov-14 Nov-15
Persons 6+ 7.2% 7.5% 7.0% 7.6%
Persons 18-34 5.7% 6.4% 5.7% 6.5%
Persons 25-54 7.0% 7.3% 6.7% 7.3%
Source: Nielsen

November 2015 PPM Markets Top Five Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.0%) Pop CHR (12.3%) Pop CHR (8.6%)
Pop CHR (7.9%) Country (9.2%) Country (7.7%)
Country (7.8%) Hot AC (7.7%) Hot AC (7.3%)
AC (7.6%) Urban Contemporary (6.7%) AC (7.3%)
Hot AC (6.7%) AC (6.5%) News/Talk (6.2%)
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

*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.