Commuters may not be spending as much time in their cars heading to or from work, but a new analysis of Nielsen data shows listeners are increasingly accessing radio station content through web streams while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s pretty clear that the streams of many non-commercial stations are taking on a greater percentage of that station’s total AQH listening during COVID-19 than before,” concludes the Radio Research Consortium, the ratings analysis team focused on public broadcasters.
The RRC dug into Nielsen numbers for 10 non-commercial stations across multiple formats over the past three months. What it found was most stations sampled received a higher percentage of their average quarter hour (AQH) cume from online listeners as people are stuck at home due to coronavirus lockdowns.
Chicago Public Media’s news-talk WBEZ (91.5) had one of the most significant increases. Nielsen says 29% of the station’s AQH cume came from streaming listeners during April, a 53% increase compared to March – and a 141% increase versus pre-pandemic listening in February.
In Dallas, an even bigger jump was recorded for streaming’s contribution to KERA (90.1). The RRC says only 2% of KERA’s cume came from streaming listeners in February. But by March that number increased to 3% with an even more significant gain in April, when streaming listeners were responsible for 11% of the news-talk outlet’s AQH cume.
The changes weren’t as clear-cut for music stations. Some like adult alternative WXPN Philadelphia (88.5) saw growth month-to-month in the share that streaming listeners had on AQH cume, but several other music-focused public radio stations saw their biggest bounce in March. Some public broadcasters were able to hold onto those gains, however. Streaming had a 29% increase in the AQH cume for adult alternative KKXT Dallas (91.7) between February and March, and while it stepped back in April, the share of online listeners for KKXT remained above where it sat prior to the pandemic.
Total Line Reporting allows stations to combine webcasts and HD2 and HD3 simulcasts; while Nielsen gives broadcasters the option of having their online stream reported separately or combined with over-the-air cume numbers. RRC says making sure a station gets credit for digital listeners is something more stations may want to consider given the current media usage trends.
“Maybe you didn’t give much thought to encoding and Total Line Reporting your stream 10 years ago when streaming seemed like something only the Jetsons would do, but the incremental growth of station streams over the years is only being accelerated by COVID-19 and the new work-from-home status of many workers,” the organization says.