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Classic Rock Rocks Again in Summer 2017

3 minute read | September 2017

Depending on where you live in America, the transition to fall may already be in full swing. Football season, cooler nights, pops of colors in the leaves, and the return to school and working routines signal the passing of another summer. All of these factors influence radio listening and will drive the storylines in future months. But with the release of Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) ratings for the August survey, it’s time to put a cap on the format of the summer analysis for this year.

Classic Rock, for the second straight year, saw the most growth in audience share when comparing tune-in during the first five months of the year to June, July and August, the dog days of summer. In 2017, the race came down to Classic Rock and Classic Hits, which have become shoe-ins for the format of the summer crown over the past few years. It’s important to note that this distinction does not go to the format with the largest overall audience share (News/Talk). Rather, it goes to the format that sees the most growth during the summer months. There were four formats in the race for format of the summer this year, with Classic Rock emerging on top again.

When taking the long view, it’s clear that audiences gravitate to music from decades ago during the summer months when listening habits and routines change. Classic Hits, the 2014 and 2015 summer winner, generally plays more pop music from the very same eras as Classic Rock, the 2016 and 2017 winner.

And just as those summertime habits changed the way Americans listen to the radio, so do the events of the past few weeks, as major hurricanes have affected the Gulf Coast, Florida and the southeast. When the September PPM results become available in a few weeks, we’ll be keeping a close eye on news listening and radio usage with a particular focus on markets in Texas, Florida and beyond.

The last time there was such a major hurricane storyline in America was in 2012, when Sandy moved up the East Coast and made landfall in New York. Along the way, the storm passed seven PPM markets from Washington to Boston, and in the first few days after Sandy hit New York, the radio audience in those northeastern markets jumped 50% as consumers turned to radio for information and updates. What’s more, the share of listening among news stations in New York (both commercial and non-commercial) surged dramatically; on the day Sandy made landfall in New York, half of all radio listening in the market was to a News/Talk or All-News station.

Each storm is different and unique, and both of the recent hurricanes arrived in populated areas on a weekend, as opposed to during the work week, as was the case with Sandy. We will know more about how these storms shaped radio habits in Houston, Austin, Miami, Tampa and many other markets over the next few weeks.

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

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