Nielsen: Radio Audiences Continue To Grow In Nielsen's May PPM Survey


Radio’s Weekly Reach and Average Audience at Highest Levels Since March 2020

  • The May 2021 PPM survey saw yet another month of gains in radio listening across the aggregate of markets as America continues to reopen and consumers return to pre-pandemic routines.

  • Radio’s weekly reach is now at its highest levels since March 2020, and has grown during each of the past four months.  In May 2021, radio’s weekly reach surpassed 122 million weekly listeners, within 2 million of where it was before the lockdown precautions took effect last year.

Radio’s Average Quarter-Hour (AQH) audience in May 2021 also hit its highest levels since March 2020. AQH audience levels have increased 11 percent since January as vaccinations have rolled out, leading to a gradual return to pre-pandemic routines including dining out, traveling and more normal commutes.

The year-over-year comparison between the May 2020 and May 2021 PPM stands at a 108 index for weekly reach and a 120 index for AQH. This means that from a weekly reach perspective, the radio audience in May 2021 is 8% larger than the same month from one year ago, while for AQH the audience is now 20% larger than May of 2020.

  • The May listening gains were spread across the day, with all major dayparts at or near their AQH peaks since COVID-19 began. Both morning drive (Mon-Fri 6a-10a) and weekends (Sat-Sun 6a-12m) hit their highest audience levels in 15 months in May.  In fact, the weekend AQH of 6.6 Million in May 20201 is higher than it was in March of last year (6.3 Million) before the peak of the lockdown.

  • From a format perspective, seasonal listening patterns corresponding with the shift towards summer are evident in the May PPM survey. Classic Hits continues to see its share of listening increase, following past historical patterns for the format as the weather warms. Since February, Classic Hits has grown its share of listening by nearly 10 percent. Hot Adult Contemporary (AC), is also on the upswing this month, posting its highest share since August of 2020.  While the News/Talk format is lower than prior months, it remains the most listened to genre of AM/FM radio in PPM markets.

  • Elsewhere, the All Sports format this month posted its highest AQH share since COVID-19 began, surpassing the October high point when football season was in full swing.

This story first appeared on