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Streaming Now 11% of AM/FM Listening, With Spoken Word Accounting For More Than A Third Of Streaming

Between Nielsen's October 2020 introduction of the headphone enhancement to their PPM service, and the findings of a new Nielsen study of all February 2022 PPM AM/FM streaming activity, there are significant stories to tell about streaming behavior, as reported in this week's edition of Westwood One's “Everyone's Listening” blog.

“While audio streaming of AM/FM radio has been around for over 25 years, the proportion of total listening coming from the stream was, until recently, in the single digits,” Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “No longer.”

Based on Westwood One's analysis of Nielsen's February data, streaming now accounts for 11% of total AM/FM radio listening among 12+ Americans, and 12% among persons 25-54. According to the wider sample, the focus of the first-ever study of all PPM AM/FM streaming done by Nielsen, spoken word AM/FM streams – including news/talk, sports, talk/personality and Spanish news/talk formats – represent 36% of all American streaming listening, close to double their over-the-air shares (19%).

The findings also show that for 12+, 22.7% of news/talk AM/FM station listening comes from streaming, with adult contemporary second at 13.4%. Among persons 25-54, meantime, a half-dozen formats show 22% of listening or greater from streaming.

Additional research cited by the blog points out that the vast majority of the AM/FM radio streaming audience resides in the home DMA market, with an analysis of more than 300 AM/FM radio station streams separately reported by Nielsen showing 89% of streaming audiences from home market stations. Among the formats overdelivering that proportion are classic hits/oldies (98%), classic rock (97%), country (75%), AC (94%), news/talk (92%), rock (90%) and urban (90%). “Marketers can purchase time on AM/FM radio station streams knowing most of the audience is from that home market,” Bouvard says.

Nielsen's February 2022 data also shows that AM/FM streamers are, compared to the over-the-air audience in Nielsen’s 48 PPM markets, 30% more likely to have a $75K+ household income, 14% more likely to be employed full time and 11% more likely to be aged 35-64.

“While it is well acknowledged that podcasts are a fast-growing audio platform, it would surprise many to learn that AM/FM radio streaming audiences have also experienced significant growth over the last several years,” said Suzanne Grimes, EVP, Marketing for Cumulus Media and President, Westwood One. “AM/FM radio streaming now has the scale and quality marketers require. With audiences larger than Pandora and Spotify, AM/FM radio streaming listeners are upscale, employed, and in-market for major purchases.”

From the advertiser standpoint, Westwood One's analysis shows that AM/FM campaigns both generate frequency and accumulate research faster due to strong time spent listening (TSL). “Fewer ads are needed in AM/FM radio streams as higher time spent means reach and frequency accumulate faster,” Bouvard says. “Half the number of streaming ads achieve the same frequency as over-the-air AM/FM radio campaigns. Given the strong streaming time spent, it is no surprise that streaming campaigns reach larger proportions of audiences faster compared to over-the-air campaigns.”

Also notable in Nielsen's PPM study results is the variation in the percent of AM/FM listening via streaming from market to market, from as high as 18.4% for Philadelphia to just 3.9% in Las Vegas, with an average 11.3% of all PPM market listening coming from the stream.

“This historic new Nielsen study offers broadcasters and advertisers powerful insights on the American AM/FM radio streaming audience,” Bouvard says. “With some local markets approaching 20% of listening via the stream and some formats with 30% of tuning via streaming.

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