The market for Classic Hits continues to expand, as evidenced by steadily rising ratings and an official proclamation of “Format of Summer” in 2018. The mass appeal format’s growing audience has resulted in more stations programming Classic Hits than ever before, based on exclusive Inside Radio data that tallies monthly Format Counts.
Classic Hits added 16 new outlets in November 2019, compared to October 2019, to air on a total of 1,113 stations, surpassing the 1,100 mark for the first time in the format’s history. Only the broad-based Religion and Variety umbrella formats added more stations last month.
Mapping the growth trajectory of Classic Hits shows a year-over-year gain of 48 stations from 1,065 in November 2018 to 1,113 in November 2019. The growth of the format’s national footprint is even more remarkable when you go back further in its timeline. At the end of 2006 Classic Hits had only 442 outlets. Ten years later it nearly doubled the tally to 850 stations.
Classic Hits is that rare format where its rank based on station count equals its rank based on audience share, finishing seventh in both metrics. In fall 2018, Classic Hits had a 5.8 share among listeners aged 12+, up from a 5.7 one year earlier, according to Nielsen. The format performs slightly better in large markets than medium and small markets where it pulled a 5.5 share in fall 2018.
These one-time Oldies stations have evolved to the point where the eighties is now the No. 1 decade of music for the format. While that makes it a homerun for 35+ listeners, the music’s enduring appeal also attracts a growing contingent of 18-34 year-olds. “Classic hits is a big at-work format so it has really big numbers 8 to 5,” veteran programmer Brian Thomas told Inside Radio in a recent profile of the format, “Classic Hits: From Niche To Ratings Powerhouse.” “If you have a big morning show, that’s icing on the cake; you’re a monster radio station in your market,” added Thomas who currently oversees Townsquare Media’s 17 Classic Hits stations and is Operations Manager of the company’s Grand Rapids properties.
Close cousin Classic Rock is also on the rise, adding 10 new converts last month to hit 580 outlets in November 2019, up from 570 in October 2019. In the past year, Classic Rock picked up 31 more signals. In addition, Classic Rock showed the greatest gain in 6+ audience share, when comparing PPM ratings for the January-May period with June-July-August, making it the Format of Summer in 2019.
Reviewing the top 10 U.S. radio formats, based on the number of outlets, Country continues to lead (2,202 signals), followed by Religion, which includes Teaching and Variety (2,039), News/Talk (2,022), Variety – up a notch from last month – (1,287), Contemporary Christian – down one position from October – (1,265), Spanish (1,221), Classic Hits (1,113), Sports (704), Top 40 (626) and Adult Contemporary (580).
Inside Radio takes a look at Format Count trends on a monthly basis. To review October 2019’s biggest trends, see HERE.