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Q4 Nielsen PPM Data Shows Stability and Gains For Radio Listening.

AM/FM radio’s cume audience reached 97% of its pre-COVID levels while AQH has recovered to near March levels, up to 94% total week with strong listening in drive times, according to an analysis of fourth quarter Nielsen PPM data from Katz Radio Group. The rep firm says the latest numbers highlight “radio's stability and gains across demos, dayparts, and markets.”

Compared to second quarter 2020, which marked the peak of pandemic disruption to media consumption, radio’s cume is up 6 points from 91%. Every reported demo was at or above 94% recovered, with Hispanic Persons 12+ reaching 98%. Among Millennials aged 18-34, cume rebounded to 94% from 89% in Q2. Persons 18-49 improved from 90% in Q2 to 95% in Q4 while Persons 25-54 went from 91% to 96%.

“Fourth quarter data confirms that Americans are seeing some stability and normalcy return to their disrupted consumer and media behaviors,” Katz says in the report. “In this strangest of years, radio has proven to be a medium of choice for entertainment, companionship, and critical information in listeners' communities.”

Looking at AQH Persons, Q4's Total Week listening came in at 94% of pre-pandemic levels, up 14 points over the pandemic-impacted low of Q2.

Dayparts have made progress in their recovery, Katz notes, as consumer behaviors shifted and normalized. Weekend and midday continued to lead the comeback, now followed closely by drive times. Morning drive, which was the hardest hit daypart, has regained 17 points, reaching 88% recovery in Q4.

Individual markets continued to recover through fourth quarter – the majority of PPM markets have regained at least 90% of their March AQH listening, and six have reached or crossed the 100% recovery threshold. “The pace of recovery has been unique to each locality, depending on market size and population, as well as the timing and severity of COVID impact,” the Katz report says. “Despite these nuances, all markets have experienced growth over their pandemic-impacted low.”

In another indicator of recovery, a Katz analysis of recent mobility data from Apple shows Americans taking to their cars at rates on par – and above – pre-COVID levels.

The Apple Mobility Trends Report uses Apple Maps search volume to provide insight into how current consumer driving behaviors compare to a pre-COVID baseline from January 2020. Looking at a nationwide average for fourth quarter, the country achieved mobility levels 13% above the pre-COVID baseline. With the exception of Hawaii, every state was at or above January levels. Bearing in mind any seasonal fluctuations, Apple's data show positive signs of stability and normalcy across the country.

According to fourth quarter 2020 Nielsen PPM data, radio's out-of-home share came in at 67%, just four points shy of pre-COVID levels. In fact, throughout the pandemic, out-of-home remained the top listening location, with over two-thirds of total listening.

“As Americans spend more time on the road and returning to the workplace, out-of-home listening will continue to progress back toward pre-pandemic levels,” Katz says.

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