Tuesday, June 19, 2018


WNYC-FM has more weekly listeners than any
other noncommercial station in the nation
Today we have a big picture view of the top thirty noncommercial stations according to Nielsen Audio PPM ratings for May 2018.  We have also included a comparison to May 2017.   

This information clearly confirms that noncom stations have large numbers of listeners.

Keep in mind that Nielsen makes ratings data available only for stations that purchase the ratings. 

There conceivably could be noncom stations with more listeners than the thirty stations listed in this post.  But, we can think of any.

There are five major noncom formats: NPR News/Talk, Christian Contemporary Music (CCM), Classical music, Triple A/Alternative Rock music, Jazz music and Latin Pop music.  There are other formats – Community, Christian Talk and Oldies come to mind. None of these other formats have the critical mass of listeners to challenge the 30 stations we are discussing.

The chart on the right is a summary of the top thirty stations by their program formats. Over half of the stations on the list air NPR News/Talk programming. One station on the list, KCRW in Los Angeles, has a dual format of NPR News and Triple A music. When tabulating the formats, KCRW is included as .5 NPR News and .5 Triple A.

The second largest group of stations airs Christian Community Radio (“CCM”). Three of the seven CCM stations air Educational Media Foundation’s (EMF) K-Love format.  K-Love is heard on 397satellite-fed stations and 387 FM translators. It sounds exactly the same on all of them.

We have arranged the top thirty into three groups of ten to make the information easier to read. We will provide a bit of commentary on some stations in each group.

On the left is the chart showing the top ten noncommercial stations by their estimated weekly listeners. 

With a couple of exceptions, the NPR News/Talk stations have growing numbers of weekly listeners. 

KSBJ has the largest number of estimated weekly listeners of any CCM station. KSBJ is also the most financially successful CCM station in the nation.  Unlike satellite-fed K-Love stations, KSBJ has a large local in-person presence on the streets in southeast Texas.

The second group of stations, #11 through #20, includes the only Jazz music station, KKJZ in LA, on the lists.   

Previous top thirty lists we have complied typically included WBGO in New York. They were close to making the list this time but WBGO’s estimated weekly listeners have been down recently.

At #11 is a new station in the top thirty: WCKL in Chicago. WCKL operates on the frequency where The Loop used to be. It’s K-Love format is reaching about a third of listeners that were reached by The Loop. Another K-Love repeater is #16 KKLQ in Los Angeles.

The group of stations #21 through #30 includes a couple of notable stations that far out-perform their market size. 

Portland, Oregon is Nielsen Audio market #23 but KOPB draws more estimated weekly listeners than many stations in much bigger cities. KOPB’s performance is an inspiration to everyone who believes that programming excellence will determine the future of public radio.

Station #28, KNAI in Phoenix has been in the news recently. The FCC fined the Cesar Chavez Foundation over $100,000 because KNAI and a station in Fresno were found to have broadcast numerous commercial messages.

1 comment:

  1. I can think of one more station to add to your list of top 30 non-comms, at least as far as weekly cume is concerned. Michigan Radio serves six Nielsen metros across southern Michigan (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Flint, Lansing and Kalamazoo). Although the station's weekly cume in Detroit alone doesn't crack this list, Michigan Radio has a total weekly cume across all of these markets of 510,100, according to the most recent Nielsen National Regional Database (Fall 2017). That would put Michigan Radio at #9 on this list.

    Of course, there are other stations on this list, like OPB and Minnesota Public Radio, that have significant listening audiences that extend beyond their home markets also. It would be interesting if there were a way to compare the total broadcast audience of stations and station networks, beyond just their home markets.