Faith-based content may have had a resurgence during the pandemic, but it shows no signs of slowing down. The number of contemporary Christian stations are up 2.5% versus a year ago, while religious talk and teaching formatted-stations have grown 1.6% year-to-year according to the Inside Radio database. At the same time, religious broadcasters like Educational Media Foundation and VCY America continue to grow their station portfolios, powered by the donations pouring in from listeners. The ability to get listeners to part with money is made easier by the passion that they have for the format, and newly released research from Jacobs Media reveals they are keeping the faith in radio.
Jacobs Media’s forthcoming Christian Music Broadcasters Techsurvey will show that Christian music radio has the best net promoter score in all of radio. The score – which is a measure of how likely someone is to recommend something to a friend, family member, or colleague – is a proxy for engagement with the format. The 2023 results match the all-time high set in 2021, when it also had a score of 82. That is well above public radio’s 66 and country radio’s 57 – the top score for commercial radio, with Christian stations having net promoter scores that are double that of commercial formats including classic rock, alternative, sports and news-talk.
“Ask a Christian broadcaster what their station stands for, and they'll tell you succinctly without batting an eye,” Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs writes in a blog post. “At a time in radio where many are questioning everything – about creating content, sales marketing, and ratings success – Christian broadcasters are mostly basking in the glow of success. They see the path forward, and their relationship with their audience is strong.”
The survey of listeners in the database of Christian stations taking part in the annual CMB Techsurvey, finds the biggest reason that people have such strong positive feeling about their station is the music it plays. It was cited by nine of ten (89%) of those surveyed. Eight in ten said they were encouraged by what they heard, or that they found the programming inspirational. Three-quarters said they listen in order to grow their faith, while two-thirds like that it is safe for the entire family to listen to.
Jacobs says the data reflects the mission-based nature of Christian stations. But he also points out that many of the motivations are similar to what they see in their surveys of public radio listeners. While Christian radio stations have narrower focus – faith – public radio station listeners typically mention objectivity, trust, and civility as their core values.
According to Inside Radio's monthly analysis of Nielsen's PPM cross-market average quarter-hour share data trends, covering Monday-Sunday 6am-midnight, contemporary Christian radio trended 3.0-2.9-3.2 during the Jan.-Aug. periods of 2021, 2022, 2023.
One of the more emblematic rises comes from Minneapolis-St. Paul, where contemporary Christian pubcaster KTIS-FM (98.5) again ranked No. 1 in August and the station has now led in the Twin Cities for five consecutive months, the past three of those with a double-digit share. In August, it kept a comfortable 2.4-point distance from second-place classic hits “Kool 108” KQQL.
“If you haven't done so already, a deeper look at your market's ratings may be in order, especially if you routinely skip over these stations,” writes Jacobs in his blog post. “And it might be smart to actually spend some time listening to them. It will help you better understand their success, and it might even give you a good idea or two.”