Chicago radio ratings: Homebound listeners flock to WBBM Newsradio

Cisco Cotto

The first radio ratings to reflect the coronavirus shutdown showed substantial increases for three of Chicago's news and news/talk stations.

By a wide margin, Entercom all-news WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM finished first overall as well as first in mornings, middays, afternoons and evenings, according to audience shares released Wednesday.

Other big gains were posted by WGN 720-AM, the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station, and WBEZ 91.5-FM, the Chicago Public Media NPR news/talk station. Among listeners between 25 and 54, WBEZ finished first in mornings and afternoons for the first time.

The Nielsen Audio survey covered the four-week period from February 27 to March 25. Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered the shutdown of all bars and restaurants in Illinois on March 15, followed days later by a stay-at-home order for all residents.

Mirroring a downward trend among conservative talk stations nationwide, Cumulus Media Group news/talk WLS 890-AM fell out of the top 20.

The shutdown of sporting events due to the pandemic also showed in lower shares for Entercom sports/talk WSCR 670-AM. Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk WMVP 1000-AM was flat.

In light of disrupted listening patterns, Nielsen Audio issued an advisory to clients: "Given the anomalous nature of audience behavior during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, it is Nielsen's position that future buying and planning decisions for periods that fall outside the COVID-19 crisis should not be made using COVID-19 impacted audience estimates."

In other words, take it with a grain of salt.

Even so, data from the March survey showed key listening metrics remained "remarkably steady," according to research analysts, with radio retaining 90 percent of its average quarter-hour audience and 96 percent of its reach despite upheaval in drive-time routines.

"People get out of bed later if they are sheltering at home," noted Pierre Bouvard, chief insights officer at Cumulus Media/Westwood One. "Getting up later also impacts AM/FM radio’s morning drive."

Here are Chicago’s top 30 radio stations from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday, as measured by Nielsen Audio from February 27 to March 25, followed by format and average quarter-hour share of listeners age 6 and older (with previous month’s share in parentheses):

1. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM all news, 7.7 (5.8)
2. WVAZ 102.7-FM urban adult contemporary, 5.3 (4.9)
3. WTMX 101.9-FM hot adult contemporary, 5.2 (5.4)
4. WDRV 97.1-FM classic rock, 5.1 (5.3)
5. WGN 720-AM news talk, 4.5 (3.9)
6. (tie) WBEZ 91.5-FM public radio news talk, 4.3 (3.6); WLIT 93.9-FM adult contemporary, 4.3 (4.8); WLS 94.7-FM classic hits, 4.3 (4.2)
9. WXRT 93.1-FM adult album alternative, 3.8 (3.3)
10. WKSC 103.5-FM Top 40, 3.3 (3.7)
11. WOJO 105.1-FM Mexican regional, 3.1 (3.3); WSHE 100.3-FM adult contemporary, 3.1 (3.3)
13. WBBM 96.3-FM Top 40, 2.8 (2.6)
14. WUSN 99.5-FM country, 2.7 (2.8)
15. WSCR 670-AM sports talk, 2.5 (2.7)
16. (tie) WBMX 104.3-FM classic hip hop, 2.4 (2.5); WKQX 101.1-FM alternative rock, 2.4 (2.3); WLEY 107.9-FM Mexican regional, 2.4 (2.6); WRME 87.7-FM soft rock oldies, 2.4 (2.4)
20. WGCI 107.5-FM urban contemporary, 2.3 (2.1)
21. WLS 890-AM news talk, 2.1 (2.3)
22. WPPN 106.7-FM Spanish adult contemporary, 1.8 (1.9)
23. WPWX 92.3-FM urban contemporary, 1.4 (1.4)
24. (tie) WCKL 97.9-FM contemporary Christian, 1.3 (1.5); WVIV 93.5-FM Spanish contemporary, 1.3 (1.9)
26. (tie) WEBG 95.5-FM country, 1.2 (1.4); WMVP 1000-AM sports talk, 1.2 (1.2)
28. WFMT 98.7-FM classical 1.1 (1.0)
29. WMBI 90.1-FM Christian ministry, 1.0 (0.8)
30. WZSR 105.5-FM hot adult contemporary 0.7 (0.6)

Here are Chicago radio’s top 10 morning shows from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio:

1. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM Felicia Middlebrooks and Pat Cassidy
2. WTMX 101.9-FM Eric Ferguson, Melissa McGurren and Brian “Whip” Paruch
3. WGN 720-AM Bob Sirott
4. WBEZ 91.5-FM “Morning Edition”; “BBC Newshour”
5. WDRV 97.1-FM Brian Sherman and Steve Tingle
6. WVAZ 102.7-FM Steve Harvey
7. WLS 94.7-FM Dave Fogel and Kim Berk
8. WKSC 103.5-FM Christopher “Fred” Frederick and Angi Taylor
9. WXRT 93.1-FM Richard Milne
10. WSHE 100.3-FM Brooke Fox, Jubal Fresh and Jeffrey Dubow

Here are Chicago radio’s top 10 midday shows from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio:

1. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM Cisco Cotto
2. WDRV 97.1-FM Bob Stroud
3. WTMX 101.9-FM Lisa Allen
4. WLIT 93.9-FM Robin Rock
5. WLS 94.7-FM Greg Brown
6. (tie) WGN 720-AM John Williams; Ji Suk Yi; Anna Davlantes; WVAZ 102.7-FM Bioncé Foxx
8. WXRT 93.1-FM Lin Brehmer
9. WBEZ 91.5-FM "1A," Jenn White; Terry Gross; "Here and Now"
10. WOJO 105.1-FM Rafael “El Primo Rafa” Bautista

Here are Chicago radio’s top 10 afternoon shows from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio:

1. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM Keith Johnson and Lisa Fielding
2. WTMX 101.9-FM Kevin “Koz” Koske
3. WDRV 97.1-FM Steve Seaver and Janda Lane
4. WBEZ 91.5-FM “All Things Considered”; “Marketplace”
5. (tie) WLIT 93.9-FM Mick Lee; WVAZ 102.7-FM Joe Soto
7. WLS 94.7-FM Erin Carman
8. WKSC 103.5-FM Brady Broski
9. WXRT 93.1-FM Marty Lennartz
10. WSHE 100.3-FM Jay Styles

Here are Chicago radio’s top 10 evening shows from 7 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio:

1. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM Bob Conway; Andy Dahn
2. WVAZ 102.7-FM Keith Sweat
3. WBBM 96.3-FM Julia Lepidi
4. WBEZ 91.5-FM “Marketplace”; “The Daily”; Terry Gross; “BBC Newsday”; “1A”; “BBC World Service”
5. (tie) WGCI 107.5-FM Zach Boog; WLIT 93.9-FM Delilah Rene
7. WGN 720-AM Justin Kaufmann
8. WTMX 101.9-FM Chris Petlak
9. (tie) WDRV 97.1-FM Phil Manicki; WKSC 103.5-FM Jordan Foster

(Copyright © 2020 The Nielsen Company.)

Wednesday's comment of the day: Erick Smith: Are hat and sunglasses required or optional for this week's Saturday night sing along?