Radio listening is growing across all markets, demos and dayparts as the country slowly emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The May 2020 PPMs reveals that radio’s weekly reach is now at 90% of where it was in March.
Average weekly cume was 124,162,800 in March before dropping to 106,603,500 in April, as the pandemic spread from coast-to-coast. In May, average weekly cume rose to 112,704,800. The 90% cume recovery index transfers across all demos, when comparing May 2020 to March 2020.
“All demos are up, cume is up across the board,” Jon Miller, VP of Audience Insights at Nielsen said during a Friday afternoon client webinar (June 5). Digging deeper, it’s out of home listening where the big growth is occurring, Miller says. “People are re-emerging, things are reopening, traffic is getting worse. All of those things are leading to more radio use happening outside the home which is radio’s bread and butter.”
A marked average quarter hour recovery also came with the May PPMs (6,486,200), which is 80% of what it was in March (8,075,100). AQH dropped to 5,829,000 (M-S 6A-12M / Persons 12+) in April, when most of the nation remained at home.
As with cume, a similar recovery can be seen when isolating demos and ethnicities. In each cell the AQH recovery index ranges from 77%-82%. Recovery of AQH was noticeable in all PPM-rated markets in May, with many approaching March levels. The size of the recovery “differs by market,” Miller explains. “Just like the experience people are having with COVID-19 is very different in New York City for example than it is in Denver or in southern markets.”
Looking at daypart recovery, middays and weekends are approaching March AQH levels. In April, AQH for middays was 78% of where it was in March. That increases to 85% in May, while weekends are up 74% to 87% in April and May, respectively. The drive-time dayparts, which were most affected by the change in behavior habits caused by the pandemic have been slower to recover. Mornings inched up 67%-71% to where they were in March and afternoon increased month-over-month from 68% to 76%.
Out of home listening still “drives” overall radio listening, Miller say, “pun intended.” Pre-pandemic March 2020 shares (Persons 18+) for out of home listening was at 71% vs. 29% of listening taking place in home. The in-home percentage increased in April (42%) and May (38%). Even with everyone “at-home,” out of home listening still accounted for more than half of all AM/FM listening in April (58%) and is on the rise, increasing to 62% in May.
“The misconception that people had when [COVID-19] came around was that people simply were not using radio out of home, because everyone is stuck at home,” Miller reveals. “You still had more than half of usage happening out of home. That’s where radio has the best opportunity to reach consumers.”
In May, most listening remains out of home across markets, with smaller markets and southern cities recovering quicker than in densely populated metropolitan areas. Out of home listening in Houston, Nashville, Greensboro and Norfolk is above 70%, while Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, New York and Washington, DC markets recording out of home listening ranging from 52% (DC) to 58% (Chicago).
Another positive sign that radio listening is returning to normal is that average quarter hour share for most formats remain consistent. News/talk accounted for 13.3% AQH in March (M-F 6a-7p / Adults 18+), rose to 15.0% in April and is back at 13.6% for the most recent May 2020 PPMs. Comfort music and community played well over the past three months with country rising (6.0-6.3-6.6), followed by AC with 6.5% AQH in May, classic rock (6.0) and classic hits (5.5). For the most part, all formats are within a share of where they were in March.
“News/talk had a very big April as you would expect,” Miller says. “From a music perspective, I think we are also beginning to see not just at work listening having an effect… but even in the middle of the biggest health emergency in modern history, you can still see the power of music and the comfort that it gives.”