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Citing COVID Disruption, Radio Networks Urge Buyers To Use Fall 2019 Ratings For Upfront.

The network radio industry is urging ad buyers to disregard Nielsen’s Spring 2020 nationwide ratings survey for the upcoming network radio upfront and use the Fall 2019 book instead.

The Network Radio Research Council, whose members include the biggest networks in the biz, says the fall survey – the latest data not impacted by listening disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – should be the currency used for national and network ad buyers.

The NRRC, whose members include AdLarge Media, American Urban Radio Networks, Crystal Media Networks, Premiere Radio Networks, Sun Broadcast Group, United Stations Radio Networks and Westwood One, cites disclaimers from Nielsen that accompany its ratings reports as the basis for its recommendation. “Given the anomalous nature of audience behavior during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, it is Nielsen's position that future buying and planning decisions for periods that fall outside the COVID-19 crisis should not be made using COVID-19 impacted audience estimates,” the statement from Nielsen reads in part.

The radio networks’ position is that the pandemic caused “an unprecedented divergence” of traditional media consumption patterns. Listening behaviors were “significantly altered” starting in mid-March 2020, as shelter-at-home mandates began and millions of Americans starting working from home. Hard-hit April is the first month of Nielsen’s Spring 2020 [April-May-June] nationwide survey and each month after that “has demonstrated consistent increases in listening,” the radio network researchers say, “and there is confidence listenership will continue to stabilize and approach pre-Covid-19 levels.”

The NRRC says its position is that the Fall 2019 Nationwide book “represents the best solution for the upcoming 2021 network radio upfront and Q4 scatter buys.”

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