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[Another] Classic Upset in the Race for the Radio Format of the Summer
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[Another] Classic Upset in the Race for the Radio Format of the Summer

Now that Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, many things about the summer of 2016 are moving to the past tense, and Americans are gearing up for fall. This seasonal shift plays into audio tune-in and means it’s time to crown this year’s “format of the summer” on the radio airwaves. As we’ve done for the past five years, we judge which national format saw the most uplift in audience between June and August compared to the first five months of the year (January through May).

A month ago it looked like Classic Hits was going to win the summer for the third straight year after seeing the largest increase in audience share each of the past two summers. However, the format faded slightly in August, bucking expectations, allowing Classic Rock to take the lead and emerge as the winner. While Classic Rock’s winning number (up 5.1% this summer) was a smaller uplift than previous winners, it was enough to snatch the crown of “format of the summer” away from Classic Hits.

Classic Rock has been on an upward trajectory for several years now in Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) markets, and when you consider the “summer” results for both Classic Hits and Classic Rock, it’s obvious that the latter is in growth mode. Whereas Classic Hits (which is generally identified by playing more pop music than Classic Rock) has seen a consistent share of audience during the summer for several years now, Classic Rock’s summer audience has grown by nearly a full share-point over the past four years.

And as we put the summer format race to bed for another year and look forward to the effects of the upcoming election and end of year holiday music, it’s worth noting that the winning summer format going back to 2011 has emerged as follows: Hot Adult Contemporary (AC), Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), Country, Classic Hits twice, and now Classic Rock.

Lastly, the aforementioned election season is paying big dividends for News/Talk stations across America. Simply put, News/Talk hasn’t seen the kinds of summer audience levels it saw in August since the last time the White House was up for grabs in 2012. News/Talk’s share of audience this August was the highest we have seen in that month going back to the start of full PPM measurement in 2011.

*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.