Whether called R&B, soul or urban contemporary, the radio format has a long history, dating back to the 1940s and early believers like the legendary WDIA Memphis. The Memphis market is clearly still a leader in the format, as it’s the only one with two of Nielsen’s top ten urban contemporary stations based on the average quarter-hour share of people aged 18-34, Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the PPM markets during the spring 2022 measurement period.
A closer look at the audience composition of these eight stations and Nielsen’s other eight listed stations – which follows in the latest from the exclusive to –Internal Radio By The Numbers’ “Top Performers” series – shows that, to quote one of the format’s biggest current hits, the urban contemporary format “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop”. In fact, in terms of share growth on all key demos since 2021it is one of the most popular radio formats of 2022.
iHeartMedia claims half of Nielsen’s top 10 stations, including the top two: “K97.1” WHRK, one of two from Memphis, and “101.1 The Beat” WUBT Nashville. These are two of four that offer double-digit shares among 18-34 year olds, the other two are Beasley Media Group’s “Power 98” WPEG Charlotte and one of Urban One’s two listed stations, “92Q Jams” WERQ Baltimore.
Besides Memphis, which is also served by Flinn Broadcasting’s KXHT “Hot 107.1”, there is direct competition for the Urban Contemporary leaders in four other listed markets, which makes their top 10 rankings all the more impressive. In Miami, Cox Media Group’s WEDR “99 Jamz” battles iHeart’s WMIB “103.5 The Beat”, iHeart’s WJLB takes on indie WGPR “Hot 107.5” in Detroit, and urban contemporary stations iHeart and Urban One are competing in Philadelphia. and Cleveland: iHeart’s WUSL “Power 99” takes on Urban One’s WRNB “100.3 R&B” in the first, while Urban One’s “Z107.9” WENZ duels “Real 106.1” WAKS- iHeart’s HD2 in the first. last.
Among people aged 18 to 34, although there is an almost equal split between men and women who listen to these 10 stations, based on an average of their audience composition – with women taking a slightly higher at 51.6% – only two stations closely match this balance, while the others are significantly more masculine or feminine. Women 18-34 make up between 57.3% and 72.4% at WUBT, WUSL and the two Memphis stations, while WEDR, WPEG, WERQ and WENZ lean more towards men 18-34.
Overall, the 18-34 segment represents an average of 35.8% of the top 10 stations’ listenership, with WPEG’s profile significantly higher (43.4%) and KXHT’s lower (28.8%). In the case of the latter channel, it enjoys a higher than average audience for 6-17 year olds – 21.2% against 15.2% on average – which is also true for WENZ (22.9%). Among 25-54 year olds, where PPM’s share increased in 2022 and represents an average decline of 57.0% in total viewership for these stations, iHeart “104.5 The Beat” WTKS-HD2 ( 67.0%), WHRK (65.3%) and WUBT (61.7%) all show higher bias.
Station loyalty is always a major driver of station and format success, and the share of core demo listeners calling either of these urban contemporary stations their P1 is among the observed to date in this series of analyses. On average, seven in ten listeners aged 18-34 (69.2%) say one of those ten is their favorite station, rising to almost nine in ten for WPEG (89.1%) and WUBT (88.8%). WPEG also pulls in a higher number of daily average and daily P1 viewing opportunities, with 5.1 and 5.9 respectively, compared to the 10-station averages of 3.9 and 4.5.
Three-quarters (75.4%) of 18-34 year olds listen to these stations outside their home, on average, with the number significantly higher for half of these stations, including WEDR, WERQ and WTKS-HD2, where out-of-home listening share is between 86 and 87%. Two of those stations, WPEG and WENZ, have a much higher share of home listeners, at 48.4% and 41.3% compared to the 10-station average of 24.6%.
Given the younger age bias of Urban Contemporary, full-time workers make up a lower percentage of listeners on average, with just over half (51.9%) in this category. Nevertheless, there are three stations – WUBT, WHRK and WUSL – with a share of full-time employed listeners in the 60-70% range. Part-timers appear more prominently at WTKS-HD2 and WENZ, with the latter’s 30.1% nearly doubling the 10-station average. Those in the “other” category, which includes colleges or non-employees, account for a larger audience share compared to the 33.2% average, or nearly half, at KXHT and WPEG.
In Memphis, where African Americans make up nearly half of the population (47.4%), they make up 95% of listeners at the two urban contemporary stations, the highest shares among those 10. At the other end is finds Baltimore’s WERQ, 51.9% of whose listeners are black while 43.4% fall into the “other” category (i.e. neither black nor Hispanic). Hispanics are the most present at WTKS-HD2 in Orlando, with 26.7% in a market where their share of the population is 35.4%. – Rich appeal