A pandemic, a disputed Presidential election and the Capitol insurrection all brought the news/talk format higher shares among persons 25-54 and 18-34, according to an analysis of Nielsen PPM average quarter-hour share data for Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight, dating back to January 2019. Also benefiting over the past 28 months are formats offering a steady diet of older music, such as classic hits, classic rock, adult hits and adult R&B. The only current-based music format to show a notable share gain over this period is contemporary Christian, especially with the 18-34 demographic.
News/talk, under the 10-share level among persons 6+ for most of 2019, broke into double-digits for good in January 2020 with the first reports of the coronavirus in the U.S. The format hit the 13-share mark in April 2020 following the first full month of lockdown and again in January 2021 after the rioting at the U.S. Capitol. Among persons 25-54, news/talk passed adult contemporary as the most-listened-to format in March 2020 and has held its lead since August, with the exception of the December and Holiday books when most AC stations flip to all Christmas music. While news/talk remains fifth-ranked among persons 18-34, its PPM share has increased 22% from January 2019, gaining a full share point from 4.5 to 5.5, hitting five-share levels as the pandemic hit and passing the six-share mark during the insurrection.
For classic hits, fifth-ranked among 25-54s, growth has been steady since 2019, from 5.0 in January 2019 to April 2021's 5.3, while also up significantly among 18-34s, from 4.3 to 5.0 during that same period to currently rank sixth. Among 25-54 year-olds, classic rock has moved from 4.6 in January 2019 to 5.0 in April 2021 to tie hot AC for sixth, with shares in the 5.6-5.7 range during the first three months of COVID, while also up 0.3 in the 18-34 demo (4.1-4.4) for ninth place. Adult hits has gained steadily for both 25-54 (2.5-2.9) and 18-34 (2.0-2.3).
Adult R&B has been a steady performer among 25-54s – up 0.3 from 4.3 in January 2019 to 4.6 in April 2021, ranked eighth – and 18-34s as well, up from 3.5 to 3.9 for tenth.
Contemporary Christian Gains Ground
Contemporary Christian has shown key gains in 2021, hitting the three-share range for the first three months of the year among persons 6+, and in January and February among persons 18-34. From January 2019 to April 2021, the format is up 2.5-2.8 for 6+ and 2.4-2.7 for 18-34. At the same time, other formats driven by current music – AC, CHR, hot AC, country, hip-hop/R&B and rhythmic CHR - have shown declines. Most notable of these is CHR, which while still the top format among the 18-34 demo, is down 16%, from 10-share-plus delivery in the first five months of 2019 to April 2021's 8.6. AC, once the top format among persons 25-54, slipped to second at the start of the pandemic and has shown gradual share loss, from January 2019's 8.0 to April 2021's 7.1. While remaining in the five-share range, hot AC is off 0.3 among 18-34s (5.9-5.6) yet still ranks fourth, and 25-54s (5.6-5.0), where it slips from fifth to sixth.
Country, while not losing its standing as the third-ranked format 6+ and 25-54 and second for 18-34, is off by 0.3-0.4 in each of these demos. That's a different situation for hip-hop/R&B and rhythmic CHR, both powered by 18-34 and down 24% and 18% respectively in the demo. Hip-hop/R&B, which consistently performed at the six-share level for most of 2019, has fallen under 5.0 since November 2020, slipping from fourth in January 2019 to currently seventh. Rhythmic CHR, meanwhile, had been in the four-share range until last December, posting a 3.6 with 18-34 in April, falling from seventh to 12th.