By combining the January, February and March surveys to create a first-quarter data set, both Adult Contemporary (AC) and Classic Hits are seeing very strong results in 2018 compared to past years.
Adult Contemporary is a format that identifies squarely with mass-appeal music. During the holiday months, more AC stations flip to the all-Christmas format than any other which also adds to the overall appeal for those stations. But the general historical trend is for AC to fall back to earth slightly once the Holiday book concludes and the influx of new listeners subsides. This year has been different, however, with AC surging to one of its best starts to the year (post-holiday) that we have seen in PPM measurement, particularly with Millennial audiences (ages 18-34).
Also, Classic Hits is also moving upwards in the first quarter, which may be an indication of the format's potential during the upcoming summer season, which it and Classic Rock tend to spike.
At current, Classic Hits is seeing its best first-quarter results ever among all three of the demographics monitored each month.
Finally, expanding on our February analysis of Millennial format preferences over time, the table below trends the first-quarter audience shares for eight of the top music formats in America.
Storylines that Nielsen noticed last month are also evident when assessing this three-year trend. Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) remains the top format but has declined nearly two full share points since the beginning of 2016. Hot AC and Urban Contemporary are also both down over the same time, while Country is generally flat, AC has spiked, and Classic Hits has now pulled even with Classic Rock.