Bridge Ratings Industry Essay : Less Is More Results - First Look


For Immediate Release:

Thursday, February 3, 2005

It's Units - Not Minutes

Last fall, Clear Channel took the "bull by the horns" and began a strategy called "Less Is More" to off-set listener attrition due to heavy commercial loads. Industry executives felt heavy commercial loads were impacting station listening, but we didn't know exactly what until Bridge Ratings released it's Attrition Report (see "Where Did My Listeners Go?"). In that report, a significant number of listeners reported tuning out during commercial breaks. We learned that radio has trained our audiences to expect long sets of commercials and that large numbers of listeners tune out at the first commercial because they understand that when they hear one commercial - they'll hear 4, 5, 6 or more in a row.

Clear Channel has chosen to lead the industry by reducing 'clutter'. Their "Less Is More" campaign is designed to generate renewed passion for their stations by playing fewer minutes of commercials each hour.

The experiment got an early start last fall when Clear Channel's AC WSNI-FM broke first with the "Less Is More" structure. The LIM concept involves fewer minutes of commercials each hour and the selling of more :30 and :15 second spots. Add to this more breaks with fewer minutes and you have the basic concept.

Not to be outdone, Philadelphia's Jerry Lee took his leading Philly AC, WBEB-FM, and instituted his own version of "Less Is More". And, as outlined in the Bridge Ratings' study, both stations are proactively promoting the new commercial structure to assure that their listeners know.

Bridge Ratings has been measuring Philadlephia radio listening since April of 2004 and during the fall of last year, we started interviewing listeners of these two stations about the perception of "Less Is More". While we realize this concept will take more time, the following is the first look at how well it's doing.

AC Trending in Philadelphia

Following is the monthly trending of both AC stations since Bridge Ratings began measuring the market in 2004. The numbers reflect "Favoriteness", Bridge Ratings' measurement of station loyalty:

Philadelphia 12+ AC Trending 2004
  Apr May Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan

From these trends, there is little that we can surmise about the impact of "Less Is More". While WBEB-FM seems to have had a solid performance during the fall months, and WSNI-FM is certainly up from spring, from this trending, it is impossible to decipher whether it is format based or if the commercial load adjustments have had an impact - until you dig deeper into the listener's behaviors and perceptions.

Thus far Bridge Ratings has interviewed 100 listeners to each of these two stations and asked why they were listening to them more or less than they were six months ago and, secondly, what station(s) they would identify with playing fewer commercials than they were six months ago.

Philadelphia 12+ AC: Reasons for Listening
  More Less Music Fewer Comm Contsts Other

What it means.

While 15% of the WBEB-FM audience and 9% of the WSNI-FM audience respond with "listening more to..." the intriguing number here is the percent said to be listening more due to fewer comercials. While overall, 15% credited WBEB-FM with more listening overall compared to six months ago, only 8% stated they identify that station with playing fewer commercials. It is WSNI-FM which has a higher perception of fewer commercials which is represented by 12% of the audience who responded.

At this time, we believe it is still too early to determine what impact the "Less Is More" strategy is having upon listening in Philadelphia. While both stations have experienced up trends over the last six months, WBEB-FM enjoyed a more significant increase. Specifically, fewer commecials cannot as yet be credited with this increase. Rather, the study suggests that WBEB's music programming was more of a factor at this time.

It should be noted, that at the beginning of January 2005, WBEB-FM chose to reduce the number of commercial breaks per hour in order to return to longer sweeps of music.

Bridge Ratings continues to monitor the situation.

Philadelphia market measurement weekly since April 2004. Commercial perceptual questions measured October 2004 through January 2005.



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