Results from the September portable people meter (PPM) radio-listening trends reveal some surprising cooling trends for a host of music formats and some seasonal upswings in the spoken word arena. It’s worth noting that the September survey spanned parts of August and September, including the week of Labor Day, which is the traditional bookend to the summer vacation season.
The Classic Hits format made headlines in August by wresting the “format of the summer” distinction away from Country and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), growing its audience shares the most of any format during the summer. Classic Hits couldn’t keep the momentum going in September though, which is indicative of a larger trend we saw during the month where some major music genres cooled off. Country, Hot Adult Contemporary (AC), Pop CHR and Classic Rock had all seen impressive growth in recent months, but listening for each format was flat or down in September.
For Sports and News/Talk, however, September marked a return to pre-summertime listening levels, following a predictable seasonal trend when audiences tend to spike. Sports shares among listeners 6+ were up 10% this month (from 4.1% to 4.5%) and up 9% in the 25-54 demo (growing from 4.7% to 5.1%). When football returns and the MLB pennant races come down the stretch each year, sports formats typically score larger audiences.
News/Talk also had a good September; the format’s shares among the 6+ demo were up 4% this month and have increased 9% since July. The 8.8% share is the highest for News/Talk since April. And among listeners 25-54, a 5% uptick in September (to 6.3%) was the best showing since March.
To get a feel for the cyclical nature of sports and news listening, the table below tracks the 6+ audience shares for each format in PPM markets since the start of 2011, and the annual rebound that occurs in the fall – something we will be tracking next month with October data.
Additional headlines from Nielsen’s September PPM data across 45 markets using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart audience shares.
- For the first time in recent memory, Country has seen two consecutive months of downtrend in listener shares. The format’s 6+ numbers have gone 8.6%-8.4%-8.3% over the past three months, respectively, while the trend has been 10.2%-10.1%-9.8% in the 18-34 demo (25-54 listener shares were flat this month). Coming months will reveal more and tell us if this is the start of a larger trend for America’s No. 1 overall format or just a seasonal variation. It should be noted that the last time Country saw two down months in a row with listeners 6+ was in the summer of 2011.
- An interesting part of Classic Hits’ success this summer was its quiet and steady growth with listeners aged 18-34. In September, the format posted a 3.7-share, just one- tenth of a point behind August’s all-time high of 3.8. This is another trend to keep an eye on as the year draws to a close; was this growth based on seasonal differences with younger audiences, or is there a larger change occurring as Classic Hits stations move their images and playlists farther away from the ‘oldies’ label with which they were once associated?
- Urban Contemporary continues to have a banner year among 18-34 year-olds. September’s 5.8-share marked the second straight month of growth (from a 5.6-share in July), and barring any radical changes in the final quarter of the year, 2014 will be by far the best year for the format in the 18-34 demo since PPM measurement began.