PPM Ratings: WBBM Newsradio dominates amid Covid crisis

All-news station remains on top; conservative talkers fail to benefit.

(Editor’s Note: This piece incorrectly reported Top 40 outlet WBBM-FM declined significantly in overall numbers from two months ago when they actually went up, from 2.6 to 2.8. T Dog Media apologizes for the error. – T.H.)   

While many radio stations are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic as , at least more listeners are tuning in to them to get news and information around the country.

Chicago was no different as news and regular talk stations saw sharp increases from two months ago as Entercom’s WBBM-AM and WCFS-FM easily topped the market in March with a 45 percent advantage over second-place WVAZ-FM (V103).

Nexstar’s WGN-AM also saw a huge surge with a fifth-place finish with its strong performance in several months. And public radio’s WBEZ-FM finished right behind WGN in sixth. Public radio stations did well in other large markets too, with New York’s WNYC and San Francisco’s KQED-FM finishing in the top five.

The survey period – from February 27 to March 25 was basically split in half – one was before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the second basically came after March 11 when a Utah Jazz player tested positive for Covid-19 and the NBA wound up suspending the season as stay-in-home orders ramped up shortly thereafter.

Conservative talker WLS-AM – did not benefit from the expanded coronavirus news coverage as their numbers slipped  a bit from last month and finished in 21st place. (Chicago’s other conservative talk outlet – WIND-AM – does not subscribe to Nielsen.) This appears to be the case in a few large markets as well, as similar stations didn’t grow their audience amid the pandemic as most were either flat or down slightly over the last two months.

Without any live games, both all-sports stations (WSCR/The Score and WMVP/ESPN 1000) were also down from two months ago.

It was a mixed bag for FM music stations as many were flat or down in this book. While Hot AC outlet The Mix (WTMX) was down a bit overall, it finished first in key demos including adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Top 40 WKSC-FM was down significantly in overall numbers (while rival WBBM-FM went up a bit), but both fared much better in key 18-34 demo where WKSC placed first. And classic rocker The Drive (WDRV) – who recently launched a another television campaign – this time featuring everyday Chicagoans “rockin’ on” (from their homes), finished third overall and in their key adult 25-54 demo and tied for fifth in 18-49.

Even though all-news WBBM did top locally, music stations in New York and Los Angeles still held the top spots in overall rankings with adult contemporary WLTW-FM topping in the former and classic hits KRTH-FM finishing first in the latter.

Of course, this is only half the story. We’ll see how listening trends are for April when the next survey is released a month from now as most of the country – and all of Chicagoland – are under some kind of stay-at-home order.


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