Two things are already obvious 1) country is having a harder time holding onto P-2 and P-3 listeners in the wake of growth at CHR, AC and pop alternative and 2) ARB's 25-34 male sample improvement techniques appear to have caused sample buffering in the last month of the fall book, and that (buffering? or simply more men in the sample now?) may have hurt country's 18-34 showing. Thirty-five-plus the format appears quite stable.
Of course, by 2006, we were on the "high" propelled by (among numerous others) "Live Like You Were Dying," "Redneck Woman" and "Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy," which didn't last quite as long as past historical peaks in country popularity both with the traditional core and interested outsiders too, thanks to Lady Gaga, Beyonce and American Idol's popifying influence on Top 40. And, as usual, those formats are stealing country's biggest songs as quickly as we familiarize our cume with them.
All you need to do is look at how depressed country radio's shares are in highly ethnic PPM markets right now - Las Vegas is the most breathtaking, since it was just two U.S. census reports ago back in those 1990's when two country stations consistently ranked in the top five and now together they have a combined 5.5 12+ share - to become hopeful that we don't have to wait until 2016 for the next "bump," which inevitably is coming, as it always has about every seven to ten years - from Hank Sr., to Patsy Cline, to Glen Campbell, to "Urban Cowboy," to the class of 1989.