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AM/FM Radio Is Driving Theatrical Moviegoing.

Research shows that heavy listeners of AM/FM radio show greater enthusiasm for an upcoming movie sequel than heavy TV viewers, or of the general population – and are more likely to be avid theatergoers, and to see films on opening weekend – yet, motion picture studio media plans spend just 2.2% of their budgets on radio. That's according to an analysis of various studies in this week's Westwood One's blog.

“There is a dramatic imbalance between the strength of audio and where money is spent,”says Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard, citing Vivvix/Kantar data for 2022 showing 58.3% of movie ad spend on TV and 39.1% on digital. “While audio listeners are big moviegoers, there is a missed opportunity in advertising movies on these platforms.”

Backing up that claim are the results of a Cumulus-commissioned study from MARU/Matchbox among more than 1,000 moviegoers in November 2022, which shows that ad-supported audio (including AM/FM radio, podcasts, and streaming) has the largest weekly reach among heavy moviegoers – 93% – well ahead of video platforms. “Ad-supported audio can drive the greatest reach for theatrical marketers,” Bouvard says.

Additionally, MARU/Matchbox's study shows all audio platforms over-index on frequent moviegoing, with 23% of heavy AM/FM radio listeners saying they go out to a movie once a week or more, and several times a month, vs. 15% of the total sample and 12% of heavy TV viewers. Likewise, 21% of heavy AM/FM listeners are more apt to see a theatrical release during opening weekend, vs. 16% overall and 12% of heavy TV viewers.

Further proof of AM/FM radio's potential as a driver of theatrical moviegoing activity resulted from researcher Screen Engine/ASI's test of the trailer for “The Expendables 4” – the continuation of the action film series starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Megan Fox and other A-listers – among nearly 2,400 moviegoers. Heavy AM/FM listeners were 17% more likely to want to see “Expendables 4” in a theater vs. heavy TV viewers and 15% more likely vs. the total sample. At the same time, heavy AM/FM listeners were 11% more positive about the movie than heavy TV viewers and 16% more positive than the total sample.

By identifying those AM/FM listeners, Screen Engine/ASI found a long list of major radio formats tuned to by “Expendables 4” intenders, headed up by oldies/classic hits, adult contemporary, and classic rock. “[There's] a wide diversity of mass appeal formats available to find the reach that would put butts in seats for this release,” Bouvard says.

With all the above going for AM/FM radio when it comes to advertising new movies, what happens when 20% of the current linear TV budget is moved to radio? Using Nielsen Media Impact to do that for the actual ad spend on five major movie campaigns, ranging from $12.6 to $34.8 million, the shift to radio saw incremental reach of adults 18-49 soar by anywhere from 78% to 179%. “Right off the bat, you can see that you're missing 60% of all Americans 18-49,” Bouvard says. “Every title saw double the reach, and interestingly, the smaller the budget, actually the higher the reach. So radio makes your TV better.”

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