Radio Beats TV in Average Audience and Weekly Reach

Radio Beats TV in Average Audience and Weekly ReachIn a world where streaming has replaced traditional TV for many Americans, it might come as a surprise that radio has accomplished something that few could have foreseen. According to Nielsen’s Q3 2022 Total Audience Report, radio now beats TV in the average audience and weekly reach among persons 18-49, a historic first. Let's take a closer look at the data.

A Shift in Audience Size


In 2018, radio’s 18-49 average audience was 63% the size of live and time-shifted TV. However, things have changed quickly. Today, radio’s persons 18-49 average audience is now +3% greater than television. Additionally, radio’s weekly persons 18-49 reach of 83% is significantly larger than television’s 59%.

This means that each week, 41% of U.S. persons 18-49 are not reached by live and time-shifted TV.  Radio reaches +41% more persons 18-49 than live and time-shifted television. Interestingly, 18-49 daily time spent on TV and radio is now virtually tied.

Why is TV Losing Its Audience?

According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, the 18-49 weekly reach of live and time-shifted TV has dropped -28% since 2018. Over the same period, TV’s daily time spent is down -56%, a loss of an hour and a half.

Cord cutting is one of the major drivers of TV’s audience collapse. The MRI Simmons January 2023 “How Americans Watch TV” report reveals that 51% of Americans have cut the cord, while another 10% are “cord tepid” or contemplating “cord shaving.” Only 38% of Americans are “cord content."


Streaming is the New TV

A Hub Entertainment study found that streaming is increasingly seen as America’s primary television platform. From 2016 to 2022, those who said streaming was “the first thing you turn on when you watch” doubled from 20% to 39%. Meanwhile, the proportion who said the first thing they turned on is “live from pay TV” dropped from 48% to 28%.

The Dominant Audio Platform

While a huge number of Americans have abandoned traditional TV for streaming, radio remains the dominant audio platform. According to Edison Research’s Q4 2022 “Share of Ear,” radio has a massive 73% share of U.S. ad-supported audio. In comparison, radio audience shares are over 15 times larger than ad-supported Pandora and 18 times larger than ad-supported Spotify.2-Apr-21-2023-07-08-31-5294-PM

How Radio Makes TV Better

Adding radio to the media plan generates extraordinary incremental reach. For example, J&J’s pharmaceutical brand Tremfya saw a +45% reach increase when it added radio to its media plan. At only 7% of the TV budget, the addition of radio generated a massive +45% incremental reach lift for Tremfya.

Nielsen Media Impact can project the incremental reach growth of shifting the TV budget to the radio. GoodRx, an online pharmacy, is a heavy TV advertiser that does not use radio. Shifting just 20% of GoodRx’s TV budget to radio generates a +31% increase in reach among persons 35+ with no increase in budget. The Nielsen Media Impact analysis reveals the younger the demographic, the greater the reach growth.

In conclusion, the rise of radio among the 18-49 demographic is a historic first, with radio now beating TV in the average audience and weekly reach. Radio's success is due to its ability to adapt and evolve with the times, embracing new technology and becoming more diverse in terms of programming. The decline of TV, driven by cord-cutting and the rise of streaming, has also played a role in radio's success. Incorporating radio into a media plan can generate significant incremental reach and help reach audiences that TV may not be able to capture. With its massive reach and enduring popularity, radio remains a powerful advertising platform for brands looking to expand their reach and connect with audiences across America.set up a complimentary consultation with Zimmer Communications

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