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Format Report Card, 2021: AC Hits 10-Year Highs In Holiday Survey, News/Talk Is Again The Year's Top

Adult Contemporary stations' annual November-December switch to Christmas music paid ratings dividends in 2021, at levels not seen during the past ten years among both persons 18-34 and 25-54, based on Inside Radio’s analysis of Nielsen PPM cross-market average quarter-hour share data for Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight.

Comparing Nielsen's 2020 and 2021 Holiday surveys (the latter covering the period from Dec. 9 through Jan. 5), AC was one of six formats showing year-over-year share growth of three-tenths of a share point or more, with Classic Hits and Contemporary Christian up the most (0.6) and Adult R&B up by 0.4. Not surprisingly, AC showed the largest share growth from the December 2021 survey (covering the period from Nov. 11 through Dec. 8), up by nearly three share points.

Also notable: AC was the only format showing double-digit shares in the Holiday 2021 rankings, as News/Talk's share slipped under 10.0 for the first time since the Holiday survey of 2019.

AC's Christmas music strength can clearly be seen when trending the format’s shares among persons 18-34 and 25-54, where their respective 14.8 and 13.9 delivery in Holiday 2021 are the highest going back to both 2011's December and Holiday surveys. Among persons 6+, AC's 14.5 share in Holiday 2021 is its second best showing over that ten-year period, behind only Holiday 2019's 14.8.

Based on full-year average AQH shares computed for each format for the 13 survey periods of 2019, 2020 and 2021, News/Talk is, for 2021, still the top-rated format with an 11.0 share 6+, while AC again finishes second at 8.5, with Country again third with 6.0. Compared to 2020, News/Talk is down, and AC up, three-tenths of a share point, while Country is down 0.4.

Only three formats have shown significant share growth from pre-COVID 2019: News/Talk (9.5-11.0), Adult R&B (4.7-5.1) and Contemporary Christian (2.6-3.0). Moving significantly in the other direction from 2019 to 2021 are Country (6.6-6.0), CHR (6.4-5.2), Hot AC (5.0-4.5), Hip-Hop/R&B (3.5-2.7) and Rhythmic CHR (2.5-1.8). Comparing 2020 and 2021, AC is up 0.3 (8.2-8.5) and All Sports up 0.6 (3.4-4.0), although both are below where they were in 2019, while Contemporary Christian is up 0.6 (2.4-3.0).

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