Exclusive

The last holiday weekend of the summer of 2020 will surely bring a handful of format changes, especially with data showing more Americans hitting the road this weekend than when the summer like no other began. But whatever flips take place they’re unlikely to upset the format apple cart across the U.S. radio landscape.

The latest format counts from Inside Radio for the month of August show Country, Religion and News/Talk unshakable as the three most programmed formats. No other genres approach the tonnage of theses stalwarts.

The three combined account for more than 6,000 signals with Country again out front with 2,184 outlets. Country has lost 8 signals since the start of the year, allowing Religion, with 2,062 outlets, to narrow the gap. The Religion format umbrella, which includes Teaching and Variety, added 24 stations since January. News/Talk, which has no shortage of news to report or polarizing topics to discuss this year, ended August with 1,990 signals – 9 fewer than it started the year with.

From there it’s a big jump to Variety at No. 4. The catch-all format found at the non-commercial end of the FM dial and on AM, has added outlets in each of the past 12 months except two. Although it is up by only eight stations since 2020 began, Variety has picked up a total of 138 signals in the past 12 months. Close behind and rounding out the top five is Contemporary Christian, which has added four outlets since January and 34 year-over-year, thanks in part to the shopping spree of Educational Media Foundation.

Spanish-language, another growing umbrella format, is sixth with 1,220 stations. That’s a five-signal gain from January but a much bigger 50-station influx since August 2019. Meanwhile, the growth of classic hits, in seventh place, has plateaued in the past four months with 1,132 stations in August. Still, that’s a gain of eight since January and an increase of 44 during the past 12 months.

Sports has also levelled off, but at a lower level. The format, which is now enjoying the return of live play-by-play, boasted 688 outlets in August, unchanged from May but down a dozen signals since January. Despite declining ratings, ninth place Top 40 has shown remarkable consistency in the number of outlets during the past year with 621 stations in August, just 6 fewer signals than in January. Classic rock is also holding steady in station counts with 586, pretty much where it’s been throughout 2020, although it has tacked on 16 stations since August 2019.

AC just missed the top 10 most programed formats with 577 signals, a loss of nine since January. Hot AC is next with 481, unchanged from January. After a slow, steady 6-month decline, Alternave Rock has leveled off at 445 stations for the last four months.

The 14th place position belongs not to a format but to the 377 stations that are currently off the air. That’s 30 more than in January with most of the gain coming in May, including many that went dark due to COVID-19 carnage. The number has since levelled off. Rounding out the top 20 are Oldies (326, down from 345 in January), Rock (steady at 304), Classical (257, a decline of 8 from January), Southern Gospel (247, down from 25 at the start of 2020), Black Gospel (233 from 240 in January) and Ethnic (steady at 226 outlets).