A look back at format flips in 2020 shows Contemporary Christian and Classic Hits were the year’s biggest gainers in station counts as both formats continued to gain momentum across the radio dial. Led by acquisition-minded Educational Media Foundation, Contemporary Christian had a net gain of 32 stations from January 2020 to January 2021, according to an exclusive Inside Radio report that tallies monthly Format Counts.
Contemporary Christian, which is also heard on stations owned by Salem Media Group, Way FM, American Family Association and others, went from 1,270 outlets in January 2020 to 1,302 in January 2021, a net gain of 3%.
Classic Hits was 2020’s second largest gainer – both in raw station count, adding 24 signals – and in percentage increase, up 2% year over year. A consistent top five performer among persons 18+ in Nielsen PPM markets, Classic Hits grew from 1,124 to 1,148 stations year over year.
The Spanish-language format umbrella had a net gain of 16 stations during the past year, rising from 1,215 to 1,231 outlets for a 1% gain. The broad umbrella category includes a wide range of formats such as Regional Mexican, Spanish CHR, Spanish Hits, Tropical, Romantica and Spanish Adult Hits.
On the other side of the format ledger, Sports exhibited the largest year-over-year decline, with a net loss of 33 stations. Sports boasted 699 signals in January 2020 but that steadily declined to 666 one year later.
Among other major formats, three contemporary genres also lost ground, led by Adult Contemporary which sacrificed 15 signals. The adult female targeted genre fell out of the top 10 most programmed formats, tumbling from 586 stations in January 2020 to 571 in January 2021 – even as it remained a consistently strong ratings performer. Top 40, meanwhile, has 10 fewer outlets than a year ago, dropping from 627 to 617 year over year, a 2% decline. Once the darling of the radio dial, Top 40 has been steadily decreasing in ratings shares in recent years. And Hot AC has nine fewer outlets, decreasing from 481 to 470 for a 2% decline.
The January format counts also illuminate the continued fall from grace of several genres that are in years-long declines. Oldies, which has largely been replaced by classic hits, shrank by 22 signals in one year to begin 2021 with 323 outlets, a 6% decrease. Adult standards continued its disappearing act with a loss of 13 signals, clocking in at 130 outlets for 9% drop. And classical shed 8 more stations, to begin the year with 257 signals, a 3% year-over-year decrease. Other formats to lose ground were Alternative Rock and Southern Gospel, each down by 4%, and Inspirational Gospel, which dipped 3%.