Most Listeners Stay With Radio Station During Commercial Breaks

Arbitron, Media MonitorsSM, and Coleman Insights, with Arbitron’s PPM (Portable People Meter), provides a study of radio listening during commercial breaks covering nearly 18 million commercial breaks containing nearly 62 million minutes of commercials airing over a 12-month period on 866 stations from all 48 PPM markets.

For years, many believed that the radio audience levels during commercial breaks were much lower than the program audience. This new report provides detailed evidence showing that radio does a remarkable job of delivering audience during commercial breaks.

A summary of the highlights of the study analyses reports that:

  • Though industry insiders still believe that radio loses a considerable portion of its audience during commercial breaks this study reveals that radio delivers most of its lead-in audience during spot breaks
  • The average radio station in this study aired 2.6 commercial breaks and an average of nearly nine minutes of advertising per hour. The average spot break was approximately 3.5 minutes in duration
  • On average, radio delivers more than 93% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks.
  • Radio audience delivery during one- to three-minute commercial breaks are practically the same as the lead-in audience
  • Longer spot breaks of four to six minutes or more yield an average minute audience that is nearly 90% of the lead-in minute. Four-minute breaks delivered 92% of the lead-in audience, five-minute breaks delivered 87%, and spot breaks of six minutes or longer delivered an average minute audience that was 85% of the audience before the commericals began
  • Among teens and 18 to 24 year olds, radio delivers nearly 90% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks. Among people age 65+, radio delivers 98% of the lead-in audience when commercials play
  • On average, stations with spoken word formats delivered practically the same audience during commercial breaks compared with the lead-in (99%) while stations with music formats averaged 88% of their lead-in audience during the commercials
  • Commercial breaks during morning drive deliver an average of 97% of the lead-in audience while key dayparts deliver 90% or more. The average minute audience during commercial breaks in morning drive (5AM-9AM) is nearly the same as the the lead-in audience while other dayparts deliver 90% or more of the lead-in audience.
  • Commercial break audience delivery was consistent throughout the year. Radio delivered between 93% and 94% of its lead-in audience during each month of the year.

There is a considerable gap in the perception of the size of radio’s audience during commercial breaks and what this study reveals. Advertisers and advertising agency insiders feel that the audience during commercial breaks is 68% of the size of the audience before commercials begin. Radio broadcasters estimated that the audience during spot breaks is 78% of the size of the audience before the start of the break.

Radio Audience Levels Perceived During Commercial Breaks


% Believing Audience Lower





Source: Arbitron, MediaMonitors, ColemanInsights, December 2011

However, the study showed that radio holds more than 93% of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks, dispelling the myth, says the report, that there are substantially fewer people listening to radio during commercial breaks.

Comparing the average minute audience during commercial breaks to the audience for the minute before the commercials began, the audience delivery during breaks of one to three minutes in duration are nearly the same as the lead-in audience. Radio also delivers a substantial portion of its lead-in audience during commercial breaks of four to six minutes or longer.

Audience Delivery During Commercial Breaks

Break Duration (Minutes)

% of Lead-in Audience

1 - minute












Source: Arbitron, MediaMonitors, ColemanInsights, December 2011

Conclusions from the report include:

  • Radio’s ability to deliver audience for its commercials far exceeds advertisers’ expectations. Closing this gap in perception will benefit radio.
  • Radio delivers 93% of its lead-in audience during commerical breaks in nearly every market throughout each month of the year.
  • Programmers of stations that cater to younger audiences should be more aware of potential audience loss due to commercials. Factors other than commercial break length and placement are more likely to be the primary drivers of rating performance says the report.
  • Higher levels of audience delivery during commercials are associated with shorter commercial breaks. Listeners simply have less time to tune away during shorter commercial breaks.
  • Delivery of the lead-in audience is highest during morning drive but other key dayparts exceed 90%. Commercial breaks during morning drive deliver the highest percentage of the lead-in audience, reinforcing the value of morning radio.

The analysis is based on 17,896,325 unique commercial breaks involving 61,902,473 minutes of advertising from October 2010 to September 2011 across the aggregate markets measured by PPM and Media Monitors.

The complete report provides significant highlights, more key findings, and discusses the implications of the research for advertisers, agencies, programmers, and broadcast executives.

Please access the complete study from Arbitron here for considerably more detail and insights.




1 comment about "Most Listeners Stay With Radio Station During Commercial Breaks".
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  1. Roy Fuchs from MFN, December 22, 2011 at 5:21 p.m.

    Not me.

    I'm gone as soon as the talk or music ends - radio at home, internet radio, car radio, and, more importantly, TV.

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