Format Report Card: Classic Hits, AC And Adult Hits Are Growing, Any Way You Look At Them.


If you look hard enough, you'll find a positive ratings story for nearly every radio format. It's a rare format, however, that shows growth three ways: from the January-May period of 2020, including COVID's initial impact on listening habits, to January-May 2022; month by month from January through May 2022; and year-over-year May 2021 to May 2022.


Inside Radio's analysis of Nielsen's PPM cross-market average quarter-hour share data for Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight – which includes averaging each format's AQH shares to compute January-May delivery in 2020, 2021 and 2022 – shows two of the top four formats among persons 6+, adult contemporary and classic hits, displaying that three-way growth. For the former, that's an impressive story considering these numbers exclude AC's all-holiday-music period.


While news/talk is still not only number one but the only format with double-digit shares consistently, it does not deliver shares at that same level among persons 18-34, 18-49 or 25-54, nor is it the top-ranked format in either demo. Its only growth story is actually among 18-34s, where share is up 0.3 from the January-May period of 2020 to 2022-to-date. Additionally, CHR ranks either first, second or third respectively among these three demos, but in no case trending upwards.


What is uptrending is AC, with demographic gains across the board based on both the five-month average 2020 to 2002, and year-over-year May 2021 to May 2022, while also up January-May 2022 among 25-54s. Classic hits' story is just as powerful, also up January-May 2020 to that of 2022, and up January-May 2022, in all four of these demos.


For 6+, there's steady '20-'21-'22 growth for four formats: classic hits (5.4-5.6-5.8), urban adult contemporary (4.6-5.0-5.1), sports (3.6-3.9-4.2) and adult hits (2.2-2.4-2.6). Urban AC displays that same growth in the three other demos, even as there are no appreciable month-to-month gains. Adult hits, though, is both a year-to-year and month-to-month story, as it shows steady gains from January to May 2022 among persons 18-49 and 25-54.


For several formats, the share growth is just happening this year, in some cases also notable from last May to this. That's the story with country which, while shares are declining over the past two years, shows fairly steady gains since January 6+ (5.6-5.7-5.9-6.1-6.1) with a similar growth pattern among 18-49s and 25-54s. It's also the case for modern/alternative rock, where several star PPM performers are helping to steadily push shares up from January for 6+ (2.2-2.3-2.4-2.4-2.6) and similarly among the other three demos. Another format with this steady 6+ share growth in 2022 is urban contemporary (2.8-2.9-3.0-3.0-3.1), also up May-to-May in every demo.


Also notable is classic rock's January-May gains among 6+, 18-34 and 18-49. and hot AC's similar performance among those latter two groups.

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