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Survey Says Adult Contemporary, Classic Hits Formats on the Rise

Nielsen’s numbers suggest mass appeal radio saw Q1 bump

Nielsen’s Q1 Audio Today report is out and, no surprise, radio continues to reach nearly everyone in America. On a weekly basis, says Nielsen, 93% of all adults tune in to radio, the most of any platform, and they add, radio has 243 million listeners in a given month.

Some of the results are predictable, but others less so. Nielsen’s data suggests that formats which have mass appeal saw rises in listener share during the first quarter of the year. By combining the January, February and March surveys to create a first-quarter data set, they say both adult contemporary (AC) and classic hits are seeing very strong results in 2018 compared to past years.

As Radio World has reported earlier, more AC-formatted stations flip to an all-Christmas format than those from any other format. By doing so, most see a bounce in ratings over the holiday season, while other formats tend to lose listeners. What’s surprising this season, says Nielsen, is the immediate rebound of AC-formatted stations. Historically, AC stations tend to fall back to earth slightly once the holiday book concludes and the influx of new listeners subsides.

[Read: For Adult Contemporary Stations, the Holiday Celebration Lingers]

At the same time, Nielsen says, the classic hits format is also moving upwards in the first quarter. This is also unusual, because both classic hits and classic rock tend to spike during the summer months. Nielsen posits that this early increase might be an indicator of a particularly strong summer performance for these formats.

Finally, this Audio Today report continued tracking formats most popular with millennials, as they published first-quarter audience shares for eight of the top music formats in America. Pop contemporary hit radio, (CHR) says Nielsen, remains the top format, but has declined nearly two full share points since the beginning of 2016. The numbers also suggest that hot AC and urban contemporary are also both down over the same time, while country is generally flat, AC has spiked, and classic hits has now pulled even with classic rock.

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