Nielsen Audio issued data this week indicating that U.S. weekly radio listening is at its highest levels since the pandemic began, though not yet to pre-COVID-19 levels.
“The April 2021 PPM survey revealed new gains in radio listening across the aggregate of markets for the second month in a row,” it said in a press release. “As America continues to reopen, consumers are returning to radio in numbers not seen in over half a year.”
“Radio’s weekly reach is now at its highest levels, 121 million weekly consumers, since March 2020 when COVID-19’s impact began to take hold. Since the beginning of 2021, radio has added more than 5 million new weekly listeners.”
The company issued this graphic that shows the monthly trends, including a rise last summer and fall, followed by a decline around the holidays and “surges,” as well as a recent “rebound.”
It also said U.S. radio’s Average Quarter-Hour audience in April was back to where it was in November, though again not yet back to pre-COVID levels. “AQH audience levels have jumped 10% in the past two months as vaccinations and a gradual return to pre-pandemic routines have proliferated.”
Nielsen said that from a weekly reach perspective, the radio audience in April is 14% larger than the same month from a year ago, while for AQH the audience is 31% larger. The April listening gains were spread across times of day.
The research company also issued some observations about trends in formats.
It noted that the urban adult contemporary/R&B format recorded its highest share of listening in several years in April. It attributed this to national interest in the social justice movement including a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. It said April gains “may have been driven by what was happening between the songs, as much as the music cycle itself during such a milestone moment.”
Some other formats are showing expected seasonal changes. “Country radio is reporting higher shares of audience heading into the summer, following its usual seasonal pattern. Classic hits is also gaining ground, another annual occurrence. Meanwhile, the return of Major League Baseball along with other live sports is boosting the all-sports format near its fall football season levels.”