Nielsen: Christmas Music impact on December ratings


NielsenWith Christmas just one day away, holiday music has overtaken the radio airwaves. In looking at the December listening trends from Nielsen’s PPM markets, AC and Soft AC led the listening increases as expected. In fact, AC jumped to second place from fourth place among all listeners 6+ across the country in December, increasing its audience share by 13%. The surprise, however, was the impact that holiday programming had on other major music formats—a shift when compared with the trends of years past.

Below are some highlights from Nielsen’s December PPM data across 45 markets using the full-week (Mon-Sun 6 a.m.-midnight) daypart and audience shares for the 6+, 18-34 and 25-54 demos:

  • Soft AC, AC’s older sibling, saw a dramatic jump by going all-Christmas again this year, ranking second in the number of total stations in holiday format. Traditionally, Soft AC’s shares climb above 1 only during the holidays, and appears headed that direction again in 2013, finishing with a 0.8-share this month.
  • Hot AC, which has been having its best year ever, gained ground in December—a marked change from last holiday season, when Hot AC shares dropped 6 percent.
  • On the flipside, Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) shares dropped 6 percent during one month of holiday programming, eclipsing the 4 percent drop it experienced over two months of holiday programming last season.
  • Classic Hits was the one major music format that held steady in December after its shares lost 4 percent last season. The difference? Approximately 50 percent more Classic Hits stations flipped their formats to Christmas music this year.

How holiday programming affected major music formats in December

Format Change in Share from Nov. 2013 to Dec. 2013
Soft AC 33%
Adult Contemporary 13%
Hot AC 2%
Urban AC 2%
Classic Hits Flat
Rhythmic CHR -3%
Country -3%
Mexican Regional -5%
Pop CHR -6%
Source: Nielsen

Is The Christmas Pie Shrinking?

While there’s no mistaking the mass appeal of holiday programming on the airwaves, we are seeing an interesting trend emerge when we compare the historical December results for AC and Soft AC combined. Since December of 2011, the combined shares for these formats—which flip more stations to Christmas programming than any other—have dropped by nearly 2 full share points across the PPM markets (11.1 in December 2011 compared with 9.3 in December 2013). We will explore this trend further next month to see if it holds up. In holiday 2012 the combined 6+ shares for AC and Soft AC were 13.0, down from 13.7 in holiday 2011.

December 2013 PPM Markets Top Five Formats by Average Quarter Hour Share (Full Week Daypart)

Persons 6+ Adults 18-34 Adults 25-54
News/Talk (9.2%) Pop CHR (12.2%) Pop CHR (8.7%)
AC (8.5%) Country (9.1%) AC (8.2%)
Country (7.7%) AC (7.3%) Country (7.4%)
Pop CHR (7.6%) Rhythmic CHR (6.9%) Hot AC (6.3%)
Hot AC (5.7%) Hot AC (6.5%) News/Talk (6.1%)
Source: Nielsen