Radio Fall Classic: Sports Radio Hits a Grand Slam in October

Radio Fall Classic: Sports Radio Hits a Grand Slam in October

One of biggest appeal of sports is the connection to history that both players and fans share, especially the continuous cycle of comparing records and achievements to those from previous seasons. Today, the sports landscape looks similar to a year ago: the New England Patriots are making headlines in the NFL, college football is capturing our attention on Saturdays and on the radio airwaves, Sports radio is setting records once again for share of audience.

The release of Nielsen’s October portable people meter (PPM) ratings for U.S. reveals that 2014’s record-setting fall for the All Sports format was not a one-year fluke. Instead, 2015 may be another record-breaking year before the season ends. In fact, October was a good month for spoken word in general, following the annual seasonal listening trends that see Sports, News/Talk and All News tick up in autumn. That said, each year is unique based on what’s happening on both the sports and news calendar. History reminds us that the run-up to a presidential election can also swing votes on the dial. And this year is no exception: News/Talk posted its best overall month in nearly two years—a 9.4% share of all listening, which was last matched in November 2013.

However, Sports stole the show in October, jumping a full share-point among all listeners aged 6+ from 4.6% in September to 5.6%. This marks a new record for the format. In the 25-54 demographic, October’s 6% (up from 5.1% in September) tied the record set in October and November of 2014. Fall is the yearly high point for this radio format thanks to baseball pennant races and playoffs and the return of football. Audiences spike again around the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, and then again when baseball returns in the spring. 

Sports October Listening Trends

Sports Oct-12 Oct-13 Oct-13 Oct-15
Persons 6+ 4.90% 5.10% 5.10% 5.6%*
Persons 18-34 4.10% 4.00% 4.00% 4.00%
Persons 25-54 5.50% 5.80% 5.80% 6.0%*
Source: Nielsen

On the flipside, while spoken word surged in October, many of the most popular music formats that enjoyed summertime ratings boosts stumbled a bit. Among all listeners aged 6+:

  • Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) listening share fell from 8.4% to 7.4% between June and October, respectively;
  • Country declined slightly from 8.2% in each of the past three months to 7.9% this month;
  • Urban Contemporary dropped from last month’s record 3.7% to 3.5% this month; and
  • Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) was down from July’s record 6.9% to 6.4% in October.

While Pop CHR is still the incumbent top-ranking format across PPM markets with listeners 18-34 and 25-54, the format’s listenership did not fare well in October. Among all listeners 6+, this October was the lowest on record under PPM measurement. In addition, it was the format’s second-lowest month ever recorded (the Holiday 2011 survey saw Pop CHR record a 7.3%). Dialing into the core pop audience, October 2015 ties the lowest 18-34 October mark for Pop CHR, while among listeners 25-54 this year marks the third lowest October on record. This stops a two-year trend of post-summer growth that Pop CHR had enjoyed.

Pop CHR October Listening Trends

Pop CHR Oct-12 Oct-13 Oct-14 Oct-15
Persons 6+ 8.0% 8.1% 8.2% 7.4%
Persons 18-34 12.1% 12.4% 12.3% 12.0%
Persons 25-54 8.3% 8.7% 9.0% 8.5%
Pop CHR—Pop Contemporary Hit Radio.
Source: Nielsen

Finally, Country also held true to a seasonal trend with softer results this month in the wake of strong summertime ratings. And while an October decline has been the norm for Country in each of the past four years, what’s interesting is that the format fell behind last October’s pace. You’ll recall that the fall of 2014 brought about the first significant decline in audience that Country had seen in several years. It’s hard to say if that is about to happen again as we continue to move toward the end of the year. Below are the comparisons between October 2014 and October 2015 for Country:

  • 8.2% to 7.9% among all listeners 6+;
  • 9.5% to 9.3% with audiences 18-34; and
  • 8.0% to 7.8% in the 25-54 demographic.

October 2015 PPM Markets Top Five Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.4%) Pop CHR (12.0%) Pop CHR (8.5%)
Country (7.9%) Country (9.3%) Country (7.8%)
Pop CHR (7.4%) Hot AC (7.5%) Hot AC (7.2%)
AC (7.4%) Urban Contemporary (6.6%) AC (7.1%)
Hot AC (6.4%) AC (6.5%) News/Talk (6.3%)
Pop CHR—Pop Contemporary Hit Radio. AC—Adult Contemporary.
Source: Nielsen

Note: Nielsen Audio 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.

Data used in this report is inclusive of multicultural audiences. Hispanic consumer audiences are composed of both English and Spanish speaking representative populations.