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TV, Or Not TV? It's Still The Latter, As AM/FM Radio Leads Among 18-49s.


Nielsen's most recent Total Audience Report makes a stronger case for AM/FM radio vs. TV, when it comes to average audience among – and weekly reach of – persons 18-49.


The latest data continues a trend first noticed in Q3 2022, showing AM/FM passing radio in these measurements, as noted in Westwood One's weekly blog. “AM/FM radio continues to surpass TV,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “In 2018, AM/FM radio’s 18-49 average audience was 63% the size of live and time-shifted TV. Things have changed quickly. According to Nielsen, AM/FM radio’s persons 18-49 average audience is now +5% greater than television.”


Adding fuel to this fire is Nielsen's finding that AM/FM’s weekly reach of persons 18-49 is now 81% vs. television’s 61% – which means, as Bouvard notes, “each week, 39% of U.S. persons 18-49 are not reached by live and time-shifted TV. U.S. AM/FM radio reaches +33% more persons 18-49 than live and time-shifted television, [while]18-49 daily time spent of TV and AM/FM radio are now virtually tied.”


Over the past five years, TV's weekly reach of the demo has fallen 28%, with time spent viewing down 56%, from an average 2 hours and 46 minutes daily to just over an hour. How did this happen? The blog cites MRI Simmons data from earlier this year showing more the half (51%) of Americans are “cord cutters,” having cancelled their cable TV subscriptions, while 10% are “cord tepid,” having cut back on their package, and just 38% are “cord content.”


Also working in radio's favor is the growth of streaming TV, which more Americans say has replaced traditional TV. According to a Hub Entertainment survey, from 2018 to 2023, those saying online streaming TV was “the first thing you turn on when you watch” was up from 30% to 40%, while the proportion saying the first thing they turned on is “live from pay TV” fell from 62% to 46%.


“A major shift has occurred in the American mindset about streaming,” Bouvard says. “Once thought of as an 'add on' to regular TV, streaming is increasingly seen as America’s primary television platform.”


As the blog notes, using several advertising case histories to make its claim, these trends strengthen AM/FM radio's role in any media plan relative to TV. “When introduced into the media plan, AM/FM radio generates extraordinary incremental reach,” Bouvard says. “AM/FM radio makes TV better [by] driving reach growth among light and medium TV viewers. AM/FM radio delivers significant reach growth among Americans under 64 who are difficult to reach on linear TV.”

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