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The Holidays Bring Presents to the Radio Airwaves

2 minute read | January 2017

While many of us have largely moved on from the busy holiday season, American radio broadcasters are just now taking stock of the impact that holiday music had on their year-end programming. The release of Nielsen’s holiday portable people meter (PPM) ratings puts a wrap on the 2016 listening year, leaving us with some familiar outcomes as we begin 2017: the seasonal impact of the all-Christmas format followed historical trends and the News/Talk format closed the book on a banner year.

The 2016 holiday survey ran for five weeks this year (Dec. 1 to Jan. 4) in order to close a scheduling gap in the PPM survey. The bulk of holiday music listening—which begins in earnest after Thanksgiving and peaks on Christmas—was captured and reflected in the ratings.

Adult Contemporary (AC), which flips to the all-Christmas format more than any other format, ended the year with a 12.8% share among all listeners 6+ to lead the way among all formats. What’s more, the 2016 holiday survey results are on par with nearly every other comparable survey year, as you can see in the table below.

When assessing the impact of the holiday season among major music formats, it’s telling to look at the long-term trends of what happens to the share of audience between November and the holiday survey. AC and Soft AC formats surge due to Christmas music, Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) and Mexican Regional listening declines slightly, and Country is the format most affected by all-Christmas programming.

Here’s a look at five years of data aggregated together, along with the 2016 results for comparison. This year’s holiday survey affected the major formats exactly as expected.

In the spoken word radio realm, specifically, the News/Talk format, 2016 was a banner year as ratings were boosted by an unprecedented political season. We’ll have more on this in coming days with a look at the combined audiences of all news-based formats, but for now the results from the Holiday book detailed below speak for themselves.

The News/Talk format typically has lower listenership during the holiday survey than at other times during the year, particularly because it happens in the middle of the strongest ratings periods of the calendar year—the fall and winter. But given the interest in the coverage leading up the U.S. presidential election, 2016 continued to buck the trend, as we have been reporting, and the holiday book was one of the strongest ever recorded for News/Talk, post our historic election.

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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