Nielsen 250

If Nielsen’s quarterly Total Audience studies are to be viewed as a report card for the media industry, then radio continues to score the kind of high marks that should be piquing the interest of advertisers. Time Spent Listening remains strong and consistent in the Third Quarter Report Nielsen released Thursday.

Adults who tune to radio spent an average one hour and 49 minutes a day with AM/FM in the third quarter, compared to 1:51 in the same period in 2014 and 1:55 in 2013. Radio’s six-minute TSL decline in two years is a veritable blip compared to the 20-minute drop in live TV over the same two-year period.

Radio’s monthly reach in the third quarter once again puts it in the front of the class. AM/FM reached 236,019,000 adults in the quarter, ranking No. 1 among all media and ahead of Live+DVR/Time-shifted TV, which had an adult cume of 221,767,000.

The new report shows that not all TV viewers are created equal. According to the data, 20% of viewers account for 53.4% of all TV viewing. Put another way, one-fifth of all TV viewers (the heaviest TV consumers) will be exposed to 53.4% of every advertiser’s paid gross impressions while another one-fifth (the lightest TV viewers) will be exposed to only 1.2% of their paid gross impressions.

“If any advertiser hopes to reach all of their current customers and potential customers, TV is not capable of accomplishing that alone,” says Bob McCurdy, president of sales consultancy Upping the Volume and former president of Katz Marketing Solutions.

McCurdy maintains that “piling mountains of frequency against a segment of the population that are the least attractive consumers in terms of purchasing power” can lead to diminishing returns for advertisers. At the core of his logic is the fact that TV viewers living in households with incomes under $25K watch 86% more TV each month than those living in households with incomes of $75K or greater.

“It’s not about using radio if there’s extra dollars, it’s about using radio to make an advertiser’s TV spend and consequently their entire marketing effort, more effective,” McCurdy says. “Every advertiser is into efficiency and it is not efficient to repeatedly reach the heavy TV viewer to the virtual exclusion of the 40% of viewers [that make up the lightest TV viewers].”