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People Will Come: Sports Radio Tuning Tied to Opening Day

2 minute read | May 2018

Baseball on the radio has a long and storied history. As the oldest professional sporting league in America, baseball has been around since before the advent of radio, and for nearly 100 years the national pastime has remained a compelling reason to listen. The first radio broadcast took place on KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh in 1920, and a year later the first baseball game on the radio also aired on the station—a Pirates-Phillies affair. That year (1921) also marked the first year that the World Series was carried on the radio.

Today, people still tune in for baseball. Nielsen’s portable people meter (PPM) radio ratings for April confirm a seasonal increase in listening to sports radio stations when the major league season gets underway. Each year, the All Sports format’s audience share peaks in the fall when football kicks off and the World Series takes place, remains strong through the end of the NFL playoffs and then spikes again in the spring around opening day.

This year, Major League Baseball’s opening day—March 29th—was the earliest opening day ever and marked the first day of the April PPM survey (March 29-April 25). As a result, sports radio had its strongest April book since PPM measurement began in full in the beginning of 2011. This month’s 4.6% share among the total audience (ages 6 and older) is the highest April result for the format ever.

The return of baseball is not the only factor that coincides with a seasonal shift in audience on the radio. The summer season is just around the corner, and each year as habits and lifestyles change, so to do radio listening trends. For the Classic Hits and Classic Rock formats, the summer has turned into the most important time of year. Over the past four summers, these two formats have seen their audience grow more than any other and claimed the title of ‘format of the summer’ as a result. Classic Hits saw the most audience growth during the summers of 2014 and 2015, followed by Classic Rock in 2016 and 2017.

This year, Classic Hits is positioning itself strongly in the months leading up to summer; the format had its best April book on record while Classic Rock declined slightly compared to past trends. Particularly among Millennials (listeners aged 18-34), Classic Hits is on the upswing in 2018, following the strongest first-quarter results that we have seen for the format.

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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