Last week's release of May portable people meter (PPM) ratings allow Nielsen the opportunity to reflect on the first chunk of the year—five months of radio format trends, compared with the same five months in previous years. By stepping back to examine the long view of music radio consumption, Nielsen can start to see some interesting storylines in the data.
The following insights are based on the average of the January through May survey books in PPM markets, compared year-over-year:
- The leading storyline in 2018 for radio formats has been the rise of the Adult Contemporary (AC) format. The format that identifies squarely with mass-appeal music, AC has been consistently trending upward since 2015. At the same time, other formats that compete for the same audience have cooled. Hot Adult Contemporary (AC), a younger-skewing format with a lot of similarities, peaked in 2015 in terms of share of audience in PPM markets but has declined every year since. But now, it’s back to 2013 levels.
- Pop CHR is one of the biggest radio formats in America, and it’s also known for mass-appeal music, though with a younger skew and a direct focus on current popular music. We have been tracking its downward trend for most of the year and currently Pop CHR has its smallest share of audience since the beginning of PPM measurement in 2011.
The chart tracks the combined results for January-May over the past eight years for AC, Country, Pop CHR and Hot AC (the top four music formats nationwide in 2018). News/Talk ranks No. 1 overall but, we didn’t include it in our music-format-only chart.
Since 2015, Pop CHR has seen its share of audience shrink 15%, and its rank among all music formats drop from second place to fourth place this year.
- When you step outside the top 50 markets based on population and consider the nation as a whole, Country is the top-ranked format—even ahead of News/Talk when it comes to total audience. In the larger markets—the PPM markets—Country trails News/Talk and AC, but has been up and down in the past decade before turning more consistent in the past two years. 2014 was a high point for the format, but only two years later the share had declined by almost 10%. In 2017, and now in 2018, Country has stabilized and become the second-highest ranked music format.
- Alternative is the second-highest-ranked rock format in America, right behind Classic Rock. The Alternative format is more focused on showcasing the new, popular rock music of today, while simultaneously relying on acts from the 1990s and 2000s at its core. Simply put, popular music influences Alternative.