The news/talk format continues to narrow the gap between it and country at the top of Inside Radio's monthly Format Counts monitor of U.S. stations for March 2022, as it moves from 184 stations behind in March 2021 to 146 this month. Year-over-year, news/talk has gained 15 stations for a .7% increase while country has lost 23, resulting in a 1.0% decline.
Both 'classic' formats, hits and rock, are the biggest gainers among the top ten formats. Classic hits, ranked seventh, adds 29 stations from a year ago for a 2.5% bump upward, while classic rock gains 34 for a 5.8% increase, good enough to push it from tenth a year ago up to ninth in March 2022. Switching places with classic rock is top 40, which has lost seven stations to slip 1.1%.
Spanish stations' total has also grown enough to push its rank up, from sixth a year ago to fifth, adding 24 more stations for a 1.9% gain. It swaps spots with the 'variety' category, which includes many non-commercial FM and AM outlets, losing 19 stations and down 1.5%.
Sports displays the largest decline of any of the top 10 formats, shedding 26 stations for a 3.9% fall. While contemporary Christian shows an additional 26 stations, up 2.0%, and the 'religion' category loses 29 and is down 1.4%, most of that is related to the re-classification of nearly 20 stations as contemporary Christian beginning in April 2021.
Below the top 10, adult contemporary, ranking 11th, is off 2.5% year-over-year with 14 fewer stations, while alternative in 13th loses eight outlets for a 1.8% decline. In the middle is hot AC with no real change, having shed just two outlets from a year ago.
In summary, based on total stations, country continues to lead the top 10 U.S. radio formats in March with 2,177 outlets, with news/talk second at 2,031, while religion places third with 2,003 followed by contemporary Christian's 1,324. The rest of the top 10 are, in order, Spanish (1,255), Variety (1,244), Classic Hits (1,189), Sports (639), Classic Rock (623) and Top 40 (608).