Broadcast Resources

Guide to Radio Station Formats

Guide to radio station formats

Format NameDescriptionDemographics
80’s HitsPopular music and hits from the 1980s; can include a variety of genresAdults Ages 35+
Active RockNew and recent hard rock and heavy metal, with some alternative rock songsMen Ages 25 to 44
Adult ContemporaryAn adult-oriented pop/rock station with no hard rock, often with a greater emphasis on non-current music and softer hits from the 1980s and 1990sWomen Ages 25  to 54
Adult HitsDoes not adhere to a specific music genre; many adult hits stations play a mix of rock, pop, adult contemporary, and select oldies hits, predominantly drawing on music from the 1970s through the 2000s, including Classic HitsAdults Ages 25+
Adult Standards/ Middle of the RoadEclectic rock, often with wide variations in musical styleAdults Ages 25 to  44
Album Adult AlternativeBroad, diverse playlist; music tends to include numerous types of formats, often avoiding hard rock and rap musicAdults Ages 35+
Album Oriented RockMainstream rock & roll, which can include guitar-oriented "heavy metal" and Classic RockMen Ages 25 to 44
All NewsAll-news, either local or national in origin, stations having this description must broadcast all-news programming during a majority of a normal broadcast dayAdults Ages 35+
All SportsListed only if all or a substantial block of a broadcast day is devoted to play-by-play, sports news, interviews or telephone-talkMen Ages 25+
AlternativeEclectic rock, often with wide variations in musical styleAdults Ages 25 to  44
Children’s RadioProgramming geared towards children often including music and spoken stories. The Family Hits format is similar, but likely contains more all-ages music geared towards older childrenAll Ages
Christian Adult ContemporaryCurrent, popular music, geared to a Christian adult audience; Contemporary Inspirational is a format with a similar styleAdults Ages 25+
Classic CountryAn oldies format, focusing on the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, often paired with another type of programming Adults Ages 25+
ClassicalClassical music often includes opera, theater and/or culture-oriented news and talkAdults Ages 35+
ComedyProgramming is humorous and comedic in nature; primarily talk programmingAdults Ages 25+
CountryCountry music, including contemporary and traditional stylesAdults Ages 25+
Easy ListeningPrimarily instrumental cover versions of popular songs, with more up-tempo varieties of this format including soft rock originals, which may be mixed with "smooth jazz" or adult standardsAdults Ages 35+
EducationalPrimarily spoken-word, focused on offering educational programmingVariety of Ages
GospelCurrent gospel songs and sermons geared toward African-AmericansAdults Ages 35+
Hot Adult ContemporaryA variety of classic and contemporary mainstream music geared towards adults; some concentrate slightly more on mainstream pop music and alternative rock, while often excluding the more youth-oriented teen musicAdults Ages 25+
JazzMostly instrumental; also includes music from the Blues genreAdults Ages 25+
Mainstream RockCurrent rock, mainstream "alternative" and heavier guitar oriented hitsTeens & Adults Ages 20 to 25
Modern Adult ContemporaryAn adult-oriented softer modern rock format with less heavy, guitar-oriented music than the younger new rockMostly Women Ages 25 to 44
New CountryModern, current country music; popular hitsAdults Ages 25+
News Talk InformationA format devoted to informative news and talk programming; either local or national in scopeAdults Ages 35+
NostalgiaA genre encompassing stations whose emphasis is on playing music from decades past; mainly focusing on the 1940s and priorAdults Ages 35+
OldiesPopular music, usually rock-oriented, with 80% or more, non-current musicAdults Ages 25 to 55
Pop Contemporary Hit RadioFocuses on playing current popular, as determined by the top 40 music charts; includes Contemporary Hits DanceTeens & Adults Ages 18+
ReligiousLocal or syndicated religious programming, often spoken-word, sometimes mixed with musicAdults Ages 25+
RhythmicIncludes Rhythmic Adult Contemporary and Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio, which are often a cross between mainstream, Top 40 as well as urban contemporary formats; also includes Rhythmic Oldies concentrating on disco and dance genresAdults Ages 25+
Smooth ACIncorporating popular New AC/Smooth Jazz artists, while including more mainstream and urban adult contemporary material in an effort to reach a more diverse age demographicAdults Ages 25+
Soft Adult ContemporaryA cross between adult contemporary and easy listening, primarily non-current, soft rock originalsMostly Women Ages 25+
Southern GospelCountry flavored gospel music, also includes the "Christian country" or "positive country" formatAdults Ages 25+
SpanishSpanish-language programming, often paired with another type of programming including: Spanish Adult Hits, Spanish Contemporary, Spanish Contemporary Christian, Spanish Hot Adult Contemporary, Spanish News/Talk, Spanish Oldies, Spanish Religious, Spanish Sports, Spanish Tropical, Spanish Variety, Mexican Regional, Tejano, Latino UrbanVariety of Ages
Talk/PersonalityTalk, either local or network in origin, which can be telephone-talk, interviews, information or a mixAdults Ages 25+
Urban Adult ContemporaryMix of contemporary R&B and traditional R&B; usually not including rap musicAdults Ages 25+
Urban ContemporaryPlaylists made up mainly of hip hop, R&B, electronic dance music and Caribbean musicTeens and Adults Ages 15+
Urban OldiesPrimarily playing R&B music dating back to the late 1950s and the early 1960s through the early 1990sAdults Ages 35+
VarietyIncorporating four or more distinct formats, either block-programmed or airing simultaneouslyVariety of Ages
World EthnicPrograms geared to various ethnicities, primarily in languages other than EnglishVariety of Ages

Updated May 2015