All Access Exclusive: A Look Into Format Trends
February 20, 2008 at 5:39 AM (PT)
RADIOCRUNCH Pres. ANTHONY ACAMPORA gives his take on yesterday's FORMAT TRENDS REPORT released by ARBITRON. While AC saw its usual FALL leap, ANTHONY takes a look inside the trends -- taking us over a five-year period.
If formats were the stock market, Regional Mexican, Urban AC, and Sports would be great choices. Rock formats, after several years of decline, are rebounding a bit. Rhythmic, Urban and Oldies/Classic Hits are a definite concern.
Our advice to users of ARBITRON's format trends is beware. We took the 12+, 18-34 and 25-54 results and trended them out over the last six FALL books -- with a comparison of 2002 vs. 2007.
We took a look at 26 formats overall. 23 of them have been tracked continuously since 2002. Of the 23, only 8 of them have seen growth. Now, keep in mind, a lot of this is due to fragmentation of new formats and a rapidly growing ethnic population.
AC Strong, But News/Talk Stronger
The "spin" being put out there is that AC had a great FALL book. As usual, the radio equivalent of the sweeps stunt continues to work in the FALL. However, AC is basically flat to where it was in 2002 -- the year after the format went en masse to holiday music (it started in 2001 post 9/11). The good news for AC is that with News/Talk's decline 25-54, it became the #1 format this book 25-54.
News/Talk remains the top format 12+, but is down 15% 18-34 and 6% 25-54 since 2002. The upside is that News/Talk saw a nice spike in 2004 -- the last election year -- and stands to do the same in this very competitive 2008 election year.
Country remains a solid third overall and 25-54. It has been pretty steady the last five years. It's up almost 10% from 2002.
After several years of decline and format defections, Oldies/Classsic Hits rebounded in 2007 -- with the return of WCBS-FM/NEW YORK among others -- moving it up to 4th place overall.
Top 40 had a strong year (6.4 shares) in 2002, but has been fairly level since. It actually rebounded a bit this year (5.5-5.7), but dipped back to 5th place. In 18-34, its core demo, it moved back into a tie for 1st place with a sliding Rhythmic. It also saw growth 25-54, scoring its best shares since 2002.
Urban AC Suprisingly Strong
One of the big growth formats is Urban AC. The format continues its huge progression. It's up a staggering 59% 12+, 54% 18-34, and 45% 25-54. It moves into a tie for 6th place 12+ with Rhythmic, while ranking 4th 25-54.
Hip-Hop is clearly going through its challenges and the numbers for Rhythmic and Urban show some decline. Rhythmic was off 12+ for a fourth straight year, and is off nearly 11% to 2002. In its target demo of adults 18-34, Rhythmic was up slightly from a year ago, but the growth it was seeing each year has leveled off.
This year was monumental for Urban AC, as it actually passed Urban 12+ for the first time. Urban was down for yet a sixth straight year, and is off 14% to 2002. Among adults 18-34, Urban dipped from 3rd into a tie for 4th place - and it's off 11% since 2002. Among adults 25-54, it now ranks 10th.
Another format to bet on: Regional Mexican. The huge growth of AMERICA's Hispanic population, driven by Mexican-Americans, is clearly helping the increases. We've seen a number of emerging Hispanic marketplaces the last few years, such as PORTLAND, ATLANTA, CHARLOTTE, RALEIGH and a host of others that landed their first major signal FM Regional Mexican properties -- and the results are stellar. Regional Mexican ranks 9th overall, but surged into 3rd place 18-34 for the first time. Since 2002, Regional Mexican has grown 29% 12+, 40% 18-34, and 39% 25-54.
Sports also had a huge 2007 -- reaching new highs yet again. The format is up a stellar 43% among adults 25-54 since 2002.
Formats That Rebounded In 2007
* Hot AC: The format has gone through a definite transition. Just five years ago, the format relied greatly on '80s product for its spice. As the decade has moved on, Adult Hits came in and stole the '80s image (and lots of ratings) from Hot AC. But we've seen a shift the last year. With Top 40 leaning more Rhythmic, the Hot AC format has become more current and recurrent-based -- and now focuses quite a bit of its music on this decade. And for the first time since 2002, it saw growth 12+ (3.8-4.0), 18-34 (4.7-4.9), and 25-54 (4.8-5.1).
* Classic Rock: As with all of the Rock formats, Classic Rock has been in steady decline. It's not helping that its audience is aging, and Adult Hits stations in a number of markets have been cherry picking a lot of its biggest hits. But Classic Rock did rebound slightly in 2007, inching up 12+ (3.8-4.0) and 25-54 (5.1-5.3). It also doesn't hurt that Rock formats in general are looking good in the early PPM markets.
* Alternative: After a rapid decline since 2002, Alternative finally bounced back a bit in 2007. While the increases aren't large by any stretch, new sign-ons in PHILADELPHIA, LOS ANGELES, COLUMBUS, CINCINNATI and HARTFORD are sure to help the recovery. Many of these are skewing slightly older as well.
One format that is clearly waning is Smooth Jazz. The loss of WQCD/NEW YORK to start 2008 certainly raises some concern. This is a format that has been in steady decline and early results for PPM are grave as well, with no pulse for WJJZ/PHILADELPHIA and declining ratings for KHJZ/HOUSTON. It's off 30% 25-54 since 2002.
Adult Hits, when launched nationally in 2005, is holding its own. While it was off slightly to 2006, it saw steady numbers to its 2005 debut and continues to be the real deal.