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AM/FM Closer To Overtaking TV In Key Demos, As 'Things Have Changed Quickly.'

The balance of power between AM/FM radio and live and time-shifted television continues to shift in radio's favor, with greater reach and average audience among persons 18-34 and trending in the same direction for 18-49s. That's based on Nielsen Media findings reported in the latest edition of Westwood One's “Everyone's Listening” blog.

“In 2018, TV’s persons 18-34 average audience was 25% bigger than AM/FM radio. Things have changed quickly,” Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says, pointing to data from Nielsen's Q2 2021 Total Audience Report showing AM/FM's weekly reach of the demographic at 82% compared to TV's 57%, with an average audience of 3.2 million vs. TV's 2.9 million. “Each week, almost half of U.S. persons 18-34 are not reached by live and time-shifted TV.”

While TV still holds a slim lead over radio among persons 18-49, Nielsen's report shows that gap is closing quickly, with radio comfortably ahead in weekly reach – 85% to TV's 66% – if not yet daily time spent, where radio's one hour and 12 minutes is just 28 minutes less than TV. The odds are in radio's favor, with TV's weekly reach having fallen 20%, and daily time spent 45%, since 2018.

“Today, one out of three American persons 18–49 never watch linear TV in a typical week,” Bouvard says, citing Nielsen's figures, along with trends for the demo's weekly AM/FM audience as a percent of live and time-shifted television suggesting radio will equal if not surpass TV by 2025. As it stands, AM/FM's 18-49 average audience, 63% of TV's in 2018, has grown to 79% in 2021. “At this current pace, AM/FM radio’s average audiences will overtake TV in three years,” he says, while noting this is already the case among Hispanics 18-49 and headed in that direction among African Americans 18-49. Among the former, AM/FM's 1.59 million average audience is ahead of TV's 1.57 million, with a weekly reach of 90% vs. TV's 67%, while for the latter, AM/FM's reach tops that of TV, 84% to 71%.

Contributing to traditional television's decline is a changing attitude toward streaming TV over the past several years, to a point where, according to an MRI Simmons study from November 2021, it has replaced traditional TV for half of Americans, compared to 37% in 2018. “Streaming is now 'TV,'” Bouvard says. “Once thought as an 'add on' to regular TV, streaming is increasingly seen as America’s primary television platform.” That study also shows the impact of cord cutting, which nearly half of Americans (46%) say they have done, while one in ten have either cut back or are contemplating cutting back on their cable TV package, leaving just 42% keeping their cable subscription as is.

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