An election like no other, a global pandemic and the first impeachment of Donald Trump helped send news/talk ratings off the charts in 2020. In Nielsen’s PPM markets, the format, including both commercial and noncommercial stations, saw its highest shares ever under PPM measurement (going back to 2011) for both total persons 6+ as well as 25-54.
“It's clear that Americans want to discuss, debate and stay informed using this format as they have every two or four years during the past decade, depending on what the political and news cycle is doing,” Nielsen Senior VP of Insights Jon Miller told Inside Radio. “And since 2020 was an unprecedented year for news, it's no surprise that News/Talk saw record listening.”
In total week 6+ AQH share, news/talk surged to an 11.2, up from 9.5 in the non-election year of 2019 and 10.0 in the 2018 election year, according to Nielsen audience estimates provided to Inside Radio. That’s an 18% increase from 2019 and 12% higher than in 2018.
News/talk has traditionally dominated the total persons 6+ demo. And while its record shares last year are impressive, perhaps more noteworthy is the format’s ascension to the top of the 25-54 ranker. That demo has historically been dominated by contemporary music formats. Pop CHR topped the 25-54 demo for years until it was passed (by one tenth of a share-point) by Adult Contemporary in 2019 before news/talk surged to No. 1 in 2020. That pushed CHR down to third place in the Money Demo, trending 8.0-7.6-6.7 from 2018 to 2020. Back in 2015, Pop CHR had a 9.0 in 25-54 and has been declining ever since.
While Pop CHR has abdicated the 25-54 throne, it remained radio’s most listened to format in its core 18-34 demo with an 8.6, down from 10.1 in 2019 and 10.7 in 2018. This marks the format’s first non-double-digit shares in 18-34 and a 31% decrease from its peak year of 2015 when it had a 12.4 in the 18-34 demo.
“The format remains No. 1 with 18-34 year-olds even though shares have trended lower over the past several years,” Miller points out “Despite everything that changed in 2020, we still have nine out of ten consumers aged 18-34 using radio each week.”
Edison Research President Larry Rosin has advanced the theory that CHR’s ratings decline are the result “who is spending more time listening to radio versus less. Those interested in the newest music are likely scratching that itch more effectively with other, non-radio options – leaving behind bigger shares for those who want to mostly listen to older, ‘classic’ music.”
Elsewhere on the format 2020 scorecard, Adult Contemporary finished second in 6+ (8.0-8.1-7.5), third in 18-34 and second in 25-54, albeit at a lower share level than in 2019. Country placed third in 6+ (7.3-6.7-6.6), second in 18-34 (8.5-7.7-7.9) and fourth in 25-54 (7.0-6.8-6.7), down from third in 2019. Classic hits ranked fourth in 6+ (5.6-5.8-5.5), ninth in 18-34 and sixth in 25-54.
Apart from news/talk, classic rock was one of 2020’s big gainers as Americans gravitated toward the comfort food of nostalgia. Classic rock moved from sixth to fifth in 6+ (4.9-5.1-5.4), ranked eighth in 18-34 (4.2-4.5-4.9) and jumped from seventh to fifth in 25-54 (4.8-5.0-5.3).
Also of note is the decline in all sports across all three demos.It fell 4.4-4.3-3.4 in 6+, 3.3-3.2-2.5 in 18-34 and 4.8-4.5-3.8 in 25-54.