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Nielsen: AM/FM Radio Boasts Largest Reach, While Extending Its Lead Over TV.

The latest good news about AM/FM radio comes from Nielsen's just-released Total Audience Report for Q3 2023, showing the medium continued its lead over other media based on reach of persons 18+. AM/FM's 84% reach of the demo puts it ahead of social networking on a smartphone (78%) or video-focused app/web on a smartphone (76%), as well as TV internet-connected devices such as Roku and Firestick (74%) and live and time-shifted TV (72%).

For persons 18-49, the big story is AM/FM radio's widening lead over TV, which places fifth with a 58% reach. Over the past six years, AM/FM's average audience in the demographic has gone from being 63% of that of live and time-shifted TV in 2018, to 3% greater than TV in 2022 and up to 12% higher in 2023. Over that period, TV's reach has fallen from 82% to 58%, with daily time spent down from two hours and 46 minutes to 1 hour and three minutes.

According to an analysis in Westwood One's weekly blog, Nielsen shows that with AM/FM radio's reach of 18-49s at 81% vs. TV's 58%, the former ekes out a victory over the latter in daily time spent, ahead by just two minutes. Meanwhile, AM/FM leads TV in average users per hour, at 6.2 million vs. TV's 5.5 million.

“This is a surprising and new development [that] radio is pulling away,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “Is radio's audience growing dramatically vs. TV? No, this is just the collapse of American linear TV. If you're an advertiser that depends heavily on local TV or local cable, or network TV or network cable, obviously this is a major issue.”

Nielsen's report shows AM/FM's clearly younger skew, with a significantly higher percentage of tuning minutes among 18-34s and 35-49s. At the same time, it also finds that 80% of TV's average audience is 50+, with half of TV ad campaign impressions consisting of persons 65+. Put another way, Bouvard says, “If a store or brand is using TV to reach 18-49s, only 19 cents out of every TV dollar will go to that target.”

In a video presentation, Bouvard focuses on the quick-service restaurant category to show, using data from the media planning tool Nielsen Media Impact, how the 18-49 reach of TV ad campaigns has declined from 2021 to 2023. “What you can see is sharp erosion in TV reach delivered,” he says, noting decreases ranging from 29% for Taco Bell and Wendy's to 38% for McDonald's and 41% for Dairy Queen. “The average brand on American television has seen their reach delivery plummet by 34%.”

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