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Traditions (Yearly and Quadrennial) Shaped the Radio Landscape in December
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Traditions (Yearly and Quadrennial) Shaped the Radio Landscape in December

The year-end holidays are just around the corner and everywhere you look (and listen), annual traditions are taking shape as Americans get ready to close the book on another year. Holiday music now fills the airwaves across many stations from coast to coast, while the forthcoming start of a new presidential administration remains the lead news story across News/Talk stations.

These two factors, which only intersect on a quadrennial basis, powered the storylines coming out of Nielsen’s December portable people meter (PPM) ratings. News/Talk scored another big month as Election Day fell in the first week of the December survey. At the same time, the yearly shifts in listener habits that we notice each year once the all-Christmas format takes hold clearly affected the results for a handful of major music formats as well.

News/Talk’s share of audience spiked around the culmination of the election season, which was expected based on everything we’ve seen so far this year leading up to November 8th. This month’s data reveals the highest shares for News/Talk since the last time an election was held. The chart below compares News/Talk results in the PPM survey month from the last two presidential elections (November in 2012 and December in 2016).

Even more notable is the fact that December’s 4.7% share among Millennial listeners aged 18-34 was the highest ever recorded in PPM measurement for the format. It’s also further proof that interest in the American political process reached an all-time high for consumers of all ages in 2016. We will monitor what comes next for News/Talk into the next year as we move away from the influence of holiday programming, which will commandeer the headlines until the release of the January survey. But for a sneak peak at what may lay in store for News/Talk below we analyzed the four-month period from September to December four years ago, and now.

In the near term, radio programmers will be focused on the annual impact of holiday music on their formats and stations. With less than week until Christmas, spins of the classic holiday tunes are hitting a peak.

More importantly, audience shifts that result from the onslaught of Christmas music are already apparent in the data. This month, both Country and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) hit low marks for the year, which is in line with the historical trends we’ve identified. At the same time, Adult Contemporary (AC), which is historically the leader in flipping to the all-Christmas format, jumped by more than a full share point among all listeners 6+ between November (7.5%) and December (8.7%).

When it’s time to sit down and write next month’s recap of the Holiday data, all signs point toward another explosive year for AC to coincide with a downtrend for Pop CHR, Mexican Regional and Country.

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