For Adult Contemporary Stations, the Holiday Celebration Lingers

Nielsen survey suggests uptick in November–December listening for AC format
By Tom Vernon ,

For most of us, Christmas 2017 is a fast-fading memory. The holiday decorations and lights have been packed away until next year. A recent survey from Nielsen however, says perhaps adult contemporary stations have reason to celebrate a bit longer.

The release of Nielsen’s holiday book Portable People Meter ratings suggests a surprising result from the end of the 2017 listening year. According to their research, the AC format set a new all-time high for audience share in during the holiday season. AC jumped ahead of the usual top-ranked news-talk format, which traditionally ranks number one in 6+ audience share for the rest of the year.

You may be wondering what's so special about AC during the holidays? The answer, according to Nielsen, is that many of them switch to “all-Christmas” right after Thanksgiving, where other formats do not. Nielsen speculates that there is a shift in listening habits during the holidays. Some formats remain flat, others appear to lose audience to the “all-Christmas” ACs.

Nielsen published numbers that reflect a five year aggregate from 2012 to 2016, and for 2017. While AC has historically been up for the holidays, this year it outdid itself. The five year average for AC is 72%, but this year it jumped to 83%. Also gaining for the Christmas season is soft AC. It had historically increased 40%, but this year only saw a 10% jump.

The biggest losers, according to Nielsen, are CHR, historically at —6%, but down 11% in 2017; Mexican Regional, historically down 11%, but dropping to 15% last year; and country, historically at —14%, improving slightly to —12% in 2017.