Urban Contemporary Radio format (playing R/B andHip Hop music) keeps ratings hot streak

Story by Inside Radio

Urban contemporary radio had a top-notch 2014, posting its biggest PPM numbers since electronic measurement became ratings currency in most of the top 50 markets nearly four years ago. But urban radio’s ratings rise is bringing about a downturn for another big format.

Nielsen today will issue the final batch of PPM results from November, the final survey of the year before the Christmas format disrupts normal listening behavior. It will show that, across the 48 PPM markets, urban contemporary set new historic highs for audience share in November in the three primary demos.

Among listeners aged 6+, urban notched an average 3.3 share and hit a 3.7 share in the 25-54 “Money Demo.” But most significantly, urban nailed a 6.3 share in its core 18-34 segment, marking first time the format has ever been above a 6-share in the demo. Its previous best was a 5.9 share back in March.

November’s 6.3 moves urban contemporary ahead of rhythmic CHR and into fourth place behind hot AC (7.1), country (9.2) and CHR (12.4) among 18-34 year-olds. The November survey covers the period from October 9 to November 5.

The new numbers are the latest validation of a format that struggled mightily in the initial conversion from paper and pencil diaries to electronic measurement at the close of the previous decade. According to a new Nielsen report, urban has experienced “sustained growth” across all three of the big tent demos it tracks each month.

Well before classic hip-hop crashed the party, rhythmic CHR began a ratings descent. Urban contemporary and rhythmic CHR have long shared substantial amounts of music and listeners. Currently, four of rhythmic CHR’s top 10 songs are among the ten most played currents at urban. But there are deep-seated differences between the two in stationality, ethnic composition and market history. And while urban contemporary has been growing, rhythmic CHR is trending down, according to Nielsen.

In the November survey, rhythmic CHR’s shares of listeners aged 6+ (3.1), 18-34 (6.1) and 25-54 (3.4) are the lowest ever recorded in PPM measurement.
“This follows a four-year trend of November results for 18-34 year-old rhythmic CHR audiences that’s opposite of the one seen for urban contemporary,” Nielsen says in a new report.

Urban’s high and rhythmic CHR’s low come just as a new library-based formatic cousin, classic hip-hop, has begun disrupting a handful of markets. All but one of the new “throwback” stations launched before the November survey so it’s too early to tell what impact they may have on the two formats that first exposed much of their core libraries back in the day.

If Houston is any indicator, each may lose some audience to the upstart. The stations most negatively impacted by the October 13 arrival of Radio One’s “Boom 92” KROI were its rhythmic CHR sister, “97-9 The Box” KBXX, and iHeartMedia urban “93.7 The Beat” KQBT. Each lost 13-14% of its 18-34 shares in November when compared to October. But the first month of ratings for “Boom” affirm Radio One’s contention that classic hip-hop is a general market format. “Boom” also pulled 18-34 shares from the market’s two CHRs and two country stations.


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