‘It’s Getting Better:’ AQH Listening At 90% Of Pre-COVID Level.


Cume listening is back to 96% of pre-pandemic levels and Average Quarter Hours are at 90% of pre-COVID listening. This is according to a new analysis of Nielsen fall 2021 data in PPM markets, conducted by Radio Research Consortium. Also known as Persons Using Measured Media, a critical listening metric, total AQH persons 6+ for radio hit 8.1 million in fall 2021, for its highest level since the pre-pandemic Winter 2020 survey when it was 9.1 million.


Five of the 45 non-embedded PPM markets have recovered all their AQH listening: Salt Lake City, Providence, San Antonio, Raleigh, and Philadelphia.


There’s more good news from RRC’s “Fall 2021 Trends From PPM Markets” report: AQH on weekdays is back to 88% of pre-pandemic and radio’s weekday drivetime “tentpoles” have returned. Put another way, the “shape” of radio is back. That means that when listening is graphed hour-by-hour as a line chart, there are once again those distinctive listening peaks in the 7-9am and 3-5pm hours.


And as the industry slowly transitions from transacting on cost-per-point to cost-per-thousand impressions, more AQH listening equals more primetime gross impressions. In the fall 2021 survey in PPM markets, radio racked up 136.4 million gross impressions, up from 129.5 in fall 2020 and 113.8 million in spring 2020. However, it’s still short of 157.5 million registered in winter 2020.


Dissecting the trends based on listening location shows in-home is steady while out-of-home mirrors the pandemic. Before COVID disrupted everything, 70% of listening took place out of home and 30% in-home. In fall 2021, the ratio was 66% to 34%. But as RRC’s PPM market specialist Dave Sullivan says in the report, “It keeps getting better” as out-of-home listening continues to drive AQH listening forward.


Looking at dayparts, radio’s primetime Mon-Fri, 6am-7pm period is back to 89% of pre-pandemic levels. The crucial morning drive (Mon-Fri, 6-10am) is the daypart that lost the most listening and recovered the most, the data show. Morning drive AQH stood at 10.0 million AQH persons in fall 2021 or 89% of its pre-pandemic level. Midday and PM drive clocked in at 88%. Evenings and weekends fared slightly better in spring 2021 than in fall 2021.


Examining radio’s audience recovery by demo shows persons 6-24 at 90%, persons 25-44 at 83%, persons 45-64 at 89% and persons 65+ up 2% over their winter 2020 levels. Females 25+ recovered better than males 25+. Women hit 91% in fall 2021 compared to 88% for men. Breaking out listening by employment and education shows persons 25+ working full time at 82% of pre-pandemic listening and persons 25+ with a college degree at 96% in fall 2021.


Radio Research Consortium is the independent non-profit research firm that supplies audience data to non-commercial radio stations via partnerships with Nielsen and Scarborough.

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