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Led by Optimism, Radio Emerges Strong From Crisis

By Idil Cakim, SVP Research & Insights, Audacy

The radio industry is powering out of the COVID-19 crisis. While reach in April was impacted by shelter-in-place restrictions, there was a strong upward trend in consumption that increased momentum week-over-week, from April into May. Preliminary quarter hours (QHRs) released by Nielsen show weekend listening is at 94%1 and total week listening is at 82%2 of pre-COVID levels, as of the second week in May. Some markets like Memphis, Minneapolis and Phoenix have already surpassed 90% of their pre-COVID listening3.

This should stoke advertiser confidence in the medium, as this upward trend is happening while the country remains largely paralyzed by quarantine. We fully expect this momentum to continue accelerating as state restrictions are lifted, and life returns to a ‘new normal’.

Radio’s steadfast reach and express rebound is a testament to its unbreakable bond with the communities it serves and the power of its audience. A Nielsen survey on consumer sentiment and spending habits, conducted April 29 – May 1, revealed that radio audiences are like no other group of media consumers. The Nielsen study showed a cohort of optimists (32% of US adults), who believe COVID-19 restrictions are easing in their areas, and they are planning to resume normal activities within a month. Importantly, they are ready to spend and support their local economy.  26% of optimists are heavy consumers of radio. These optimists are more likely to work outside of their homes, drive and will resume normal buying behaviors.

These optimists – prime targets for advertisers – are light TV viewers (linear and streaming TV) and heavy radio listeners.4

 Optimists, Compared to Typical U.S. Adults
Heavy Radio Listener+26%
Light TV Viewer+19%
Light SVOD Viewer+13%

How to read: Compared to typical U.S. adults, optimists are more likely to be heavy radio listeners (+26%), light TV (+19%) and SVOD (+13%) viewers.

Optimism is a potent emotion which translates into zest for daily activities, including increased spending. In fact, heavy radio listeners are planning to spend as soon as restrictions ease (within 1-4 weeks) across categories, including CPG, electronics, real estate, leisure activities, automotive and travel.

A return to normal activities and spending habits are expected from heavy radio consumers.

radio consumers

Source: Custom Nielsen Study conducted April 29 – May 1 via an online survey, based on a weighted sample of 1000 Adults 18+

Local matters more than ever. Within two months of restrictions easing, heavy radio listeners are anticipated to touch virtually EVERY type of businesses within their local communities.

local community

Source: Custom Nielsen Study conducted April 29 – May 1 via an online survey, based on a weighted sample of 1000 Adults 18+

Heavy radio listeners are ready to embrace life events and will not hold back on large purchases either. Compared to typical U.S. adults, they are +29% more likely to make a major purchase they had postponed within a month of restrictions easing. They are also more likely to purchase or lease a car (+39%) or buy a new house (+22%) within a year.

Overall, these numbers demonstrate a fundamental positive shift in consumer mindset, following a time of great economic and social distress. This shift is further underscored by the continued strength of the stock market, a key indicator of investor optimism. The American economy is forging ahead and we remain confident that radio listeners’ enthusiasm to dive back into daily life, while continuing to stay connected to the content, voices and radio brands they trust, will continue at a vigorous pace.

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1Nielsen PPM Overnights / PPM Market Summary / Total week & SA/SN 6a-12M / Index of Average Daily un-weighted preliminary QHRs, P6+
2Nielsen PPM Overnights / PPM Market Summary / M-Sn 6a-12M / Index of Average Daily un-weighted preliminary QHRs, P6+
3Nielsen PPM Overnights Wednesday May 6 vs. March 11, 6a-12M / Index of Average Daily un-weighted preliminary QHRs, P6+.
4Heavy, medium, light media usage correspond to terciles in respective media usage questions.

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