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Format Scorecard: Country And Classic Hits Keep Growing, News/Talk Still Leads While In Decline.


Not every news/talk station can be American University's WAMU-FM in Washington, DC.


Top-rated in the nation's capital, with persons 6+ double-digit-share dominance dating back to May 2022, WAMU seems to be the exception vs. the rule in the format lately. While WAMU has maintained an 11.0 share or higher since August 2022, most other news/talk outlets in PPM markets haven't enjoyed similar success since 2021, or during 2023 to date.


According to Inside Radio's monthly analysis of Nielsen's PPM cross-market average quarter-hour share data trends, covering Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight, news/talk's year-to-date 6+ share has steadily fallen from Jan.-Jul. 2021 to the same period in 2023 (11.4-10.9-9.9). Likewise, the monthly trend from January to June 2023 shows news/talk down in persons 18-34 (4.1-3.7), 18-49 (5.7-5.1), and its strongest key demographic, 25-54 (6.5-5.7), even as it still leads all formats in 6+, while also in decline (10.3-9.7).


News/talk is the only format with a 2.0 share or above with decreases of 0.3 or larger across the board. While two other formats, second-ranked adult contemporary and ninth-ranked sports, are down-trending from January to July of this year in all four demos, both still show steady growth year-to-date from 2021 to 2023 (AC 7.6-8.0-8.3, sports 3.8-4.1-4.3).


CHR is the only other 2.0-share-or-higher format with a 0.3-or-more decline year-over-year (5.2-5.0-4.9), although there's no clear Jan.-Jul. 2023 trend. Shares are flat among persons 6+ and 25-54, while up just 0.1 in 18-49s and off 0.3 in its strongest demo, 18-34.


There continue to be three solid growth formats, with 6+ shares up 0.3 or higher 2021-23, and with all demo shares showing similar gains Jan.-Jul. 2023: classic hits, country, and adult hits.


Classic hits is up 0.4 in persons 6+ from Jan.-Jul. 2021 to Jan.-Jul. 2023 (5.6-5.9-6.0), with across-the-board key demo gains of at least 0.7 from January to July of this year (+0.8 for 18-49). Among the stations driving this growth are market leaders such as Cox Media Group's KONO-FM San Antonio, and Cumulus Media's WJJK Indianapolis.


Country's story is the most unusual of the three, as it lost 6+ share in 2022 but has rebounded significantly this year (6.2-6.0-6.5). Year-to-date, the format's up 0.6 in 6+ (6.0-6.6) and 0.7-0.8 in the other demos, leading all formats in 18-34 and second-ranked in 18-49 and 25-54. Drivers include Audacy's “99.7 The Wolf” WLFP Memphis, and Hall Communications' Cat Country 98.1” WCTK Providence.


Adult hits has been steady-as-they-go 2021-2023 (2.5-2.6-2.8) while up 0.5 Jan.-Jul. 6+ (2.5-3.0) and 0.6-0.7 in the other key demos. Leading the way are stations such as iHeart's “106.5 The Arch” WARH St. Louis, and Sinclair's “103.5 Bob FM” KBPA Austin.


Classic rock gets an honorable mention, as it's up 2021-23 6+ (5.2-5.2-5.6), and Jan.-Jul. in 6+, 18-49, and 25-54, while off 0.2 among 18-34s. Drivers include Beasley Media Group's WMGK Philadelphia and Hubbard Radio's KSLX Phoenix.


Urban contemporary also shows signs of growth, up 0.3 from 2021-23 (2.7-3.0), and year-to-date driven by a 0.4 gain among 18-34s (4.7-5.1). While rhythmic CHR is up just a tenth of a share point Jan.-Jul. 6+, it's made larger strides in 18-34 (2.9-3.5), 18-49 (2.6-2.9), and 25-54 (2.3-2.7). The 18-34 demo also shows significant growth for urban AC (3.7-4.1) and Spanish regional Mexican (3.1-3.9).


Other notable down-trending formats from January to July this year are Spanish contemporary, off 0.3 6+ and 18-49, and hot AC in 18-34 (5.8-5.2).

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