Country Cruises into Summer As PPM Formats Heat Up

Country Cruises into Summer As PPM Formats Heat Up

When was the last time you had a barbecue without any music? Unless you ran out of batteries or didn’t have a long enough extension cord, the answer is probably never. So the only real question worth pondering is “which format will listeners tune in to as the BBQ and beach season kicks into high gear?”

With the June portable people meter (PPM) radio listener shares now in, we see that it looks like it’s going to be the summer of Country. As we forecasted in the run up before the start of the summer, and for the second year in a row, Country radio is pulling away from the pack—and setting new highs along the way. Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), which saw the most lift during the summer in 2011 and 2012, aren’t far behind this year, either.

For many of us, our regular routines shift in the summertime, as kids stay home from school and weekends go longer, which has an effect on consumer entertainment habits. But even though the June PPM data illustrate some consistent stories along those lines, we see other more subtle changes that are also influencing listening trends in PPM markets. For example, we can see that Classic Rock is making moves in ways that it hasn’t in the past, while listening for Rhythmic CHR and AC recorded historic lows for their core audiences in June.

Below are some highlights from Nielsen’s June PPM data across 45 markets* using the full-week (Monday-Sunday 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart audience shares.

  • While we’re not yet ready to officially dub 2014 the second-straight “Summer of Country,” the June results are impressive across the board, and the format continues to raise its own bar even higher. Country radio in June established new all-time highs for listening share among audiences 6+ (8.6%), 18-34 (10.6%) and 25-54 (8.4%). The trend among 18-34 year-old listeners is particularly noteworthy, since Country has only claimed more than a 10 share in this demographic twice in PPM markets—May and June 2014. Compared with a year ago, the format is a full share point ahead among 18-34 listeners (9.6% vs. 10.6%).
  • The only format ahead of Country among 18-34 and 25-54 listeners in June was Pop CHR, which after a soft May put forth a strong showing in the June survey. The format finished second (to Country) among listeners 6+ (8.4%), and first among 18-34 (12.1%) and 25-54 (9.1%) listeners. More importantly, Pop CHR nudged its shares ahead of or equal to where it was this time last summer.
  • Hot AC has also been consistently setting new records in nearly every month this year, and it continued to do so in June, posting a record 6.3 share for 6+ (up from a 6.1% in May), a record 7.2 share for 18-34 (up from 6.9% in May) and an-almost record 6.8 share for 25-54 (up from 6.7% in May but just below the record 6.9% in April). In fact, Hot AC is so hot right now that the success is crossing over into Spanish. The format’s Spanish-language variation (Spanish Hot AC) saw shares jump by more than 50 percent this month across all three of the age groups we examined.
  • Classic Rock also gets a gold star for breaking records in June, as the format posted new highs among listeners 6+ (4.8%) and 25-54 (5.4%) and tied its high-water mark with 18-34 year-olds (3.9%), which was set back in March and April.
  • Lastly, Rhythmic CHR slumped in June, particularly among its core audience of 18-34 year-olds, dipping below winter holiday levels and actually hitting the lowest 18-34 share (6.5%) seen yet in PPM measurement. While Rhythmic CHR normally enjoys a summertime bump similar to its larger cousin, listenership for this format was almost a full share point higher (7.4%) last June.

The table below tracks how the June landscape has changed for the top music formats with 25-54 year-olds over the past four years, with the formats ranked by this year’s results. Pop CHR, Country and Hot AC have increased their shares dramatically, while long-time leader AC has lost shares. June 2014 marks the third straight month where AC posted less than a 7 share, which had never occurred in PPM before this April.

June PPM Listening Share (Persons 25-54)

Format Jun-11 Jun-12 Jun-13 Jun-14
Pop CHR 7.90% 8.90% 8.80% 9.10%
Country 7.20% 7.20% 7.90% 8.40%
AC 8.10% 7.60% 7.40% 6.90%
Hot AC 5.90% 6.40% 6.30% 6.80%
Classic Rock 4.80% 4.60% 4.70% 5.40%
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

June 2014 PPM Markets Top 5 Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
Country (8.6%) Pop CHR (12.1%) Pop CHR (9.1%)
Pop CHR (8.4%) Country (10.6%) Country (8.4%)
News/Talk (8.2%) Hot AC (7.2%) AC (6.9%)
AC (7.2%) Rhythmic CHR (6.5%) Hot AC (6.8%)
Hot AC (6.3%) AC (6.0%) News/Talk (5.8%)
PPM—Portable people meter. CHR—Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen


Nielsen officially has 48 measured PPM markets, but three of them (Nassau-Suffolk, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, and San Jose) are included in the larger New York and San Francisco metro areas. Therefore, the listening data from those markets are included in these results even though we did not break them out separately.