Stations using Voltair are still pretty tight-lipped about it.
Like any other competitive advantage, stations want to keep the box to themselves as long as possible, so few will admit they’re using one.
There’s also the issue of Nielsen’s position on the use of Voltair.
The thing about a competitive advantage is that if it works, everybody eventually finds out about it.
All one has to do is look at a station’s ratings.
If your competitor spikes one month, maybe it’s a wobble. However, if the station holds on to the gains, maybe it’s more than a spike. Maybe they’ve plugged in a Voltair.
Harker Research looked at March’s published ratings and compared them to March 2014. We found some interesting surprises.
Looking at all 48 PPM markets, we found what we always find: About half of stations gained share, while a nearly equal number of stations lost share.
It’s something we’ve written about several times. Most month to month changes are wobbles. You go up. You go down.
However this year a number of stations have moved wildly higher, setting new PPM records. We’ve seen mature stations that normally move a few tenths at a time gaining multiple shares over a few months.
Doesn’t it make you wonder?
How do mature stations essentially doing the same things they were doing the year before suddenly spike up, and then sustain that spike month after month?
We suspect that it’s because groups are installing large numbers of Voltairs.
There are well over 400 installed Voltairs spread across every PPM market, so you either have a Voltair, you’re competing against Voltair, or both.
To look at the ratings impact more closely we examined the ratings performances of several large Nielsen client groups.
We used the published 6+ share numbers, the numbers everyone has access to.
While most installations are just few months old, we compared the latest published month to the same month last year.
We calculated the percentage of stations within each group that gained and lost market share from 2014 to 2015.
The accompanying graph shows each group’s performance as well as the average for all stations across the groups. We’ve concealed one group’s identify by request.
The dark blue bars represent the percentage of stations that now stand lower than they did in 2014.
For example, about a third of iHeart stations lost share comparing March 2014 to March 2015.
The red and yellow bars represent the percentage of stations that gained share over the same period.
Nearly 60% of iHeart stations gained share in the past year. (The balance were flat.)
The average performance for all stations across these groups (nearly 500 stations) is shown on the right side.
Half (49%) of stations gained 6+ market share over 2014. Meanwhile, 51% either lost share or were flat, about what we find in any given month.
We’ve divided the gainers even further.
The yellow bars represent the super-achievers, the stations that grew more than 20%.
We chose 20% because historically the super-achievers make up only the top third of gainers. And that includes format changes.
The red bars represent the typical gainers, the percentage of stations that grew, but less than 20%,
Fully two-thirds of gainers usually grow less than 20%.
This year is different.
Instead of the one-third we expected, half of all gainers grew more than 20%.
Put another way, about one-quarter of all stations in these six groups posted gains of 20% or more.
That’s quite a performance.
The average of all groups, however, conceals a wide range of performances across the groups. A relatively small percentage of Cumulus and CBS stations managed to break the 20%+ barrier.
In contrast, Entercom and our mystery group managed to have a majority of gainers break the 20% barrier.
Of special note was the performance of iHeart.
iHeart is a large group, but combined the other four groups have more stations.
Despite that, iHeart had more over-achievers than all the other groups combined!
So if you’re wondering whether your competitor is using Voltair, we’d look to see whether the station has had any recent ratings spike.
Is it well ahead of last year’s numbers?
If the station is up more than 20%, and you see other stations in the same group going up at the same time, it’s likely that Voltair has played some role.
And if we were competing against iHeart, we’d place an order.