Listen, Don’t Chase Eyeballs

by Idil Cakim SVP, Research & Insights

Linear TV audience has shrunk. Considerably. Per Nielsen, in 2022 only one network averaged more than 1 million viewers nightly among 18-49 year olds. And only five more were above the half million mark. Almost all of the networks in the top 20 experienced double-digit declines. 

(BY ADULTS 18-49)

12USA Network224-25%
13Fox News Channel218-9%
14Food Network205-22%
16Discovery Channel194-20%
20Comedy Central153-15%

Source: Nielsen, NPM (12/27/2021-12/4/2022, Live+7 and 12/5/2022-12/18/2022, Live+SD vs. 12/28/2020-12/5/2021, Live+7 and 12/6/2021-12/19/2021, Live+SD) Mon-Sat 8pm-11pm/Sun 7pm-11pm, ad-supported and premium pay networks. Nat Geo Mundo based on NPM-H. Ranked by 2022 Year-To-Date. 

So, why keep investing so much in TV? PwC states TV received $71.1 billion in 2022 and is bound to get a similar level of investment in 2023, projected at $72.3 billion.1 Betting billions on TV creates an imbalance in plans, putting resources in a medium that cannot scale.  

These inefficient dollars should shift to efficient, and high-performing channels like Audio, which offers reach and engagement unlike any other channel. It connects advertisers with 95% of the U.S. population.2 It is significantly more immersive than other media, including TV, video and social.3 And most importantly, Audio delivers, driving as much as 23% return on ad spend for brands with audio-optimized plans.4 

What’s behind this strong performance? Audio taps into listeners’ emotions throughout the day, across all types of daily rituals. Audiences wake up to morning news, continue with their favorite music or podcast through breakfast into the commute, and listen to podcasts for self-improvement or motivation while catching some ‘me time.’ Whether people are working or parenting, Audio is there front and center. So much so that 74% of U.S. adults indicate they make time for Audio in their daily lives.5  In Audacy’s recent State of Audio: 11 Moments that Matter,6 we uncover that audiences consider Audio the motivating engine of their day, getting them through their activities and energizing them. 

Audio helps my emotions to stay in a high place. In the sense that I feel good, energized, excited, and entertaining after listening. As a result, audio meets my emotional needs by keeping me positively balanced!”

Dennis G. 31, Man,Richmond, VA

Meanwhile they lament about the time they spend in front of the TV screen as less than productive and healthy. When asked to imagine a day without Audio or TV, here’s what they had to say:

Audio is the best way for me to kind of get my day started. It gets me moving, it gets me motivated…I feel like watching the TV as I start my day would just distract me.
TV is something super passive that doesn’t really require me to think or do anything.

Fabiola E. 28, Woman, Grand rapids, MI

I don’t necessarily have to watch TV, but the audio is more so important because you get so much information from audio and it also carries you throughout the day. It motivates you to do things. It puts you in the mood for when you’re not in the mood. Audio does so much for us on a daily basis.

Anthony G. 57, Man, Calumet City, IL

Audio is effective across the funnel. Whether advertising on the radio or weaving their brand into a podcast host’s narrative, advertisers can expect their audiences to gain awareness, show increased intention to purchase and ultimately try and recommend their products and services. This trend holds across a variety of industries such as auto,financial services, entertainment and healthcare.

And it allows for precision targeting, giving marketers the flexibility to reach who they want, when they want. Audiences curate content and switch platforms and genres throughout the day, depending on their needs. A day that begins with news and some motivational rap, can continue with tech podcasts for knowledge and switch to classic rock during me-time. And what better content to put you to sleep than true crime? Audio choices and paired activities reveal so much about audiences’ mindsets and desires. Advertising during these rituals would be the way to foster authentic connections with audiences.

Today’s audiences are not watching. They are listening. Gone are the days of chasing eyeballs. Now is the time to move dollars to Audio to join where the audiences are. 

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1. PwC, June 2022.
2. Share of Ear, Edison Research, Q4 2022.
Audio Amplification: Engaged Impressions Study, Alter Agents, August – October 2020.
4. Audio ROAS Study, Neustar, May 2021
5. Audio Rituals, Alter Agents, national survey, n= 1,003, July 2022
6. Audio Rituals, Alter Agents, Ethnography, 5-day mobile dairies among n=48, July 2022

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