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How Holiday Music on Adult Contemporary Radio Keeps Getting Bigger Every Year

2 minute read | January 2019

The most recent holiday season has likely faded from our memories as the turn of the calendar into the New Year changes our focus. But when it comes to radio listening, the 2018 holiday season turned out to be yet another record breaker for Adult Contemporary (AC) stations broadcasting the “all-Christmas” format. The release of Nielsen’s holiday book portable people meter (PPM) ratings, covering the period from Dec. 6, 2018 to Jan. 2, 2019, confirms that the appetite for holiday music—particularly on AC stations, which tend to go “all-Christmas” more than any other format—keeps growing each year.

The AC format, which has continued to gain audience growth in the past few years and is now the second-most-listened-to format during the balance of the year across the PPM markets (behind News/Talk), set a record in 2017 for share of audience during the holiday survey (13.9% AQH share among listeners 6+). AC then followed up that performance in 2018 by setting another new record in 2018, hitting a 14.3% share, which is the highest number on record for the format under PPM measurement.

At the same time, the start of holiday music on the radio (which normally happens around Thanksgiving) affects all major music formats as listening habits and consumer tastes shift. Historically, AC is the format that gains the most audience share during the end of the year, while other formats stay flat or even see declines as radio audiences migrate to and from holiday programming at that time of year.

The results in 2018 mirrored the historical trends compiled over the years: AC’s audience share increased 86% in just two months last year, and the chart below maps the change in audience share between the November book and the holiday book. AC and Soft AC gained the most, while Country, Mexican Regional and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) saw the most decline around “all-Christmas” music.

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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