Looking for the most popular radio formats? Perhaps, you’re launching a new internet station and require a format that will be a hit with the masses.

Or, are you considering a switch from your current radio format?

Today, we'll present the most popular formats based on Tune In, Neilsen, and Statistica analysis.

Let's get started...

There are no published stats on the most popular web radio formats, so we took an unconventional approach by figuring out which radios people were adding as their favorites on TuneIn. So, which formats emerged top?

1) Top 40 & pop

According to Nielsen's popularity stats, the top 40, also known as Pop CHR, is one of the most popular formats for younger audiences. It's also trendy online, as revealed by the number of people that listen to Top 40 pop stations on TuneIn:

BBC Radio 1

BBC Radio 1 specializes in modern popular music and current chart hits. It's one of the longest-running stations founded on September 30th, 1967, as a response to pirate radios, by the BBC. On Tune in, the station has 3.7M favorite hits.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/BBC-Radio-1-988-s24939/

Today FM

It's one of the most popular independent radio stations in Ireland and plays music from other genres including, adult hits, variety, alternative rock, and Irish music.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/Today-FM-1018-s15099/

Additional examples include:

● Hitradio 03, Austria (428.8K favorites)

● SWR3 Germany (583.9K favorites)

2) Adult hits

Adult or variety hits stations play modern pop, and rock hits from artists such as Adele, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and Maroon 5. Top Adult Hits radio stations online include:

BBC Radio 2

Over two million people have added BBC Radio 2 to their favorites list. The station also broadcasts entertainment segments, documentaries, and comedy programs.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/BBC-Radio-2-891-s24940/

3) Alternative rock

The format emerged from the underground music scene in the 1970s and was very popular in the 90s. Popular stations on TuneIn broadcasting on this format include:

Triple J

The station plays the newest music in Australia and worldwide with a mix of other popular radio formats, including indie pop & Hip Hop music. It has so far earned 665.1K favorites hits.

Streaming Link: https://tunein.com/radio/triple-j-1057-s25508/

4) Hip Hop music

Stations in this genre also play a mix of current R&B, and examples include:

Hot 97

Hot 97 is the epicenter of the New York Hip Hop culture and has bagged 1.5 million favorite hits.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/hot97/

BBC Radio 1Xtra

BBC Radio 1 Xtra promotes hip-hop music in the UK. Their 789.2K favorites denote the popularity of the hip-hop music format among online listeners.

5) News/Talk & World News

According to Neilsen's Top 10 Radio Formats Report (2019), News & Talk was the US's most popular radio format. On Tune In, Talk/News radio stations draw many listeners and consistently show up on the trending list. Some of the most-listened-to stations include:

BBC Radio 4

It's one of the most popular stations on TuneIn, with about 2.3 million favorites.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/BBC-Radio-4-935-s25419/

Fox News Radio

Owned by Fox News, the radio revolves around conservative talk and also broadcasts on FM, AM, and satellite. It's syndicated to over 500 radio stations and has been added as a favorite about 855.2K times.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/FOX-News-Radio-s20431/

BBC World Service News

BBC World Service broadcasts world news, global stories, business reports, and talk programs and has been tapped as a favorite over 1.6M times.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/BBC-World-Service-News-s24948/


Based in Dublin, Ireland, Newstalk is often found on the trending section because of their Breakfast Briefings. It has been added as a favorite over 229,600 times.

Other popular talk stations on TuneIn include:

● ABC NewsRadio (330.5K favorites)

● BBC World Service UK (755.5K favorites)

● CBC Radio One Toronto (220.3K favorites).

6) Sports

Sports is an exciting format, and despite its niche appeal, it has emerged as one of the most popular formats on TuneIn. Some prominent providers of sports content include:


It’s the world’s biggest sports radio station that draws soccer fans who tune in for live broadcasts of Premier League games.

Streaming Link: https://tunein.com/radio/talkSPORT-1089-s17077/

ESPN Los Angeles

It's part of a network of ESPN radio stations and has earned over 362.0 K favorites.

Streaming Link: https://tunein.com/radio/ESPN-Los-Angeles-710-s32301/

7) Jazz

There are quite many jazz stations online specializing in various sub-genres within the format, including smooth jazz. Popular jazz stations on TuneIn include:


The station features great jazz artists of all time and broadcasts from Seattle, Washington. About 635,400 users have added the station to their favorite lists.

Streaming link: https://tunein.com/radio/Jazz24-885-s34682

Top Radio Formats from 2017 to 2019 According to Nielsen Radio Ratings

Is radio still popular? Nielsen’s audience measurement data revealed that Americans spend nearly 12 hours on traditional radio, which dwarfs their time on TV-connected devices.

Nielsen carries out audience research using portable people meters across the major 48 U.S markets, and regularly publishes their findings of the top most popular radio formats. So, which are the most popular formats?

Top Radio Formats of 2019

  1. News/talk

News and Talk had the largest audience share from 2017 to 2019. For persons aged 18 to 34 years, it was the 10th most popular format in 2019.

  1. AC

Adult contemporary Had the second-largest share from 2017 to 2019 and was the third most popular format with Persons 18 to 34 years.

  1. Country

Overall, country music was the third most popular format in the US from 2017 to 2019, and With the younger demographic 18 to 34, it was the second most popular format in 2019.

  1. Pop CHR

Pop Contemporary Hits Radios play the most recent popular music based on top 40 music charts. In 2019, it was the second most popular format after AC for people aged 25 to 54 years old, but for the general public, it took the fourth position after news/talk, AC, and Country. Though it's popular with younger audiences, data from Neilsen revealed that its share has been declining from 11.6% ( 2017), 10.7% ( 2018), and 10.1% (2019).

  1. Classic hits

Among the general population, Classic Hits was the fifth most popular format in 2019, but this was not the case in previous years. Classic rock and hot AC were more popular the classic hits in 2017.

  1. Classic rock

  2. Hot AC

  3. Urban AC

  4. All sports

  5. Urban contemporary

  6. Mexican Regional

  7. Alternative

  8. Spanish contemporary

  9. Contemporary Christian

  10. Rhythmic CHR

Top formats for persons 18 - 34 (Nielsen 2019)

  1. Pop CHR

  2. Country

  3. AC

  4. Urban contemporary

  5. Hot AC

  6. Alternative

  7. Rhythmic CHR

  8. Classic hits

  9. Classic rock

  10. News and talk

  11. Spanish contemporary

  12. Urban AC

  13. All sports

  14. Mexican regional

  15. Contemporary Christian

Top formats for persons 25 to 54 (Nielsen 2019)

  1. AC

  2. Pop CHR

  3. Country

  4. News and talk

  5. Hot AC

  6. Classic hits

  7. Classic rock

  8. All sports

  9. Urban contemporary

  10. Urban AC

  11. Alternative

  12. Mexican regional

  13. Spanish contemporary

  14. Rhythmic CHR

  15. Adult hits

Nielsen noted that AC and Country were the most popular radio formats, but Country was declining while AC was growing. Political events such as the upcoming presidential election in 2020 also drove listeners to the news and talk format.

The top radio formats in the US based on station numbers

Statista has been tracking the number of radio stations and their main formats. Radio station numbers may not necessarily reveal the popularity of a particular format.

The top 10 formats based on registered US stations in 2020 were:

  1. Country - 2202

  2. Religion ( teaching variety) - 2039

  3. News/Talk - 2002

  4. Variety - 1287

  5. Contemporary Christian - 1265

  6. Spanish - 1221

  7. Classic hits - 1113

  8. Sports - 704

  9. Top 40 - 626

  10. Classic rock - 580

Where to get the full report: https://www.statista.com/statistics/252230/top-radio-formats-in-the-us-by-number-of-stations/

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