Format Counts: Country's Lead Over News/Talk Continues To Shrink.


While Country and News/Talk continue to be AM/FM radio's most programmed formats, according to Inside Radio's monthly Format Counts monitor of U.S. stations for December 2021, year-over-year the former continues to lose while the latter gains outlets. Since last December, News/Talk has added 36 stations for a 1.8% rise, while Country shed 25 for a 1.1% decline.


Among the top ten formats, the biggest gainers from a year ago are Classic Hits, with 33 additional stations for a 2.9% lift, while both Spanish and Contemporary Christian show 2.6% increases with 22 and 34 new stations respectively. For the latter, it should be noted that its year-over-year bump is mostly tied to the re-classification of nearly 20 stations as Contemporary Christian beginning in April 2021, explaining the resulting 1.7% slip for the Religion category, losing 36 stations year-over-year.


The Classic Rock format has also had a good year, with total stations up 2.2% and 13 additional stations since December 2020. Trending in the other direction are Sports, off 3.6% shedding 24 stations, Top 40 losing seven and down 1.1%, and Variety, including many non-commercial FM and AM outlets, off 0.5% with six fewer outlets.


Notable changes below the top 10 include the rising Soft Adult Contemporary format, adding six stations from last December for a total of 134 and a 4.7% gain, and the combination of Urban AC and R&B Adult/Oldies, together adding three for a 275 total and 1.1% lift. Trending in the other direction are 11th-ranked Adult Contemporary, with 24 stations exiting for a 4.2% decrease, Hot AC in 12th losing eight stations and down 1.7%, and Alternative Rock losing 10 and off by 2.3%.


In summary, for December the order of the top 10 U.S. radio formats based on the number of stations stays the same as it has since April 2021. Country leads with 2,175 outlets, with News/Talk second at 2,038, while Religion places third with 2,009 followed by Contemporary Christian's 1,323. The rest of the top 10 are, in order, Variety (1,251), Spanish (1,250), Classic Hits (1,173), Sports (645), Top 40 (611) and Classic Rock (600).

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