Nielsen

Santa delivered his typical ratings wallop in the first batch of Holiday 2017 ratings issued by Nielsen on Tuesday. All-Christmas stations captured the top positions in every major market except one, with several stations doubling and even tripling their November numbers.

Christmas topped the 6+ ranker in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The format took the top two positions in Dallas and ranked second in Atlanta.

While all-Christmas showed no cracks in 2017, apples-to-apples comparisons to 2016 aren’t possible because the 2017 Holiday book started five days later than in 2016 (Dec. 7 in 2017 vs. Dec. 1 in 2016). That shifted some of the format’s impact into the December survey. The Holiday 2017 book ran Dec. 7, 2017 – Jan. 3, 2018 while the comparable 2016 survey spanned Dec. 1, 2016 – Jan. 4, 2017. Yet despite less of the holiday season in the 2017 survey, six major market Christmas stations grew their year-over-year ratings. Entercom classic hits KLUV Dallas went 6.8-7.2 (Holiday 2016-Holiday 2017), Salem Media Group contemporary Christian “The Fish” WFSH improved 7.1-8.5 and Entercom classic hits WOGL Philadelphia moved 5.5-5.7. In Los Angeles, both iHeart AC KOST (10.7-11.9) and Mount Wilson’s “Go Country” KKGO (2.8-2.9) gained share. And in the biggest Yuletide jump so far, iHeart AC “Sunny 99.1” KODA Houston zipped 10.3-12.5.

Four major market all-Yule outlets went down, year-over-year. IHeart AC “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT Chicago notched a 13.7 in 2016 but dipped to 12.4 in 2017 and AC sister “Star 102” KDGE dropped 7.7-6.4. Other all-Christmasers with less tinsel on the tree were iHeart’s “Lite FM” WLTW New York (13.3 in 2016, 13.1 in 2017) and Jerry Lee AC “101.1 More FM” WBEB Philadelphia (17.9-17.0).

The format stayed on an even keel at Bonneville-operated KOIT San Francisco, which posted a 9.2 in the Holiday survey both years.

All ratings quoted are total week, 6+ AQH shares.

With three more batches of PPM ratings still to come, it’s too early to say how the format performed as a whole year over year. But the Christmas format’s ability to turbocharge ratings remains undiminished. Compared to November, WLIT more than quadrupled its share (2.8-12.4) while KODA (6.1-12.5), KOST (4.4-11.9), WBEB (7.8-17.0) and KOIT (4.5-9.2) more than doubled their pre-Christmas season numbers.

“To me, up or down isn’t the story,” says Chuck Knight program director at WBEB, which finished first in 23 different demos. While WBEB’s 6+ share is down from 2016’s all-time record high of 17.9, it’s up from the station’s 10-year average of 15.9. “Should we or any other market-leading Christmas station be disappointed with our huge Super Bowl-type ratings, be they up or down by a small percentage? If so, we’re crazy,” Knight tells Inside Radio. “The balloon isn’t about to burst. The true challenge Christmas stations have is monetizing these monster ratings.”

The December 2017 book, which covered Nov. 9 – Dec. 6, reflected more of the holiday season than in 2016, which ended on Dec. 1. That may help explain why AC’s national audience share hit a 10.5 share of listeners aged 6+ in the December 2017 survey, which Nielsen says marked a December high dating back to the beginning of comprehensive PPM measurement. AC went 8.7-10.5, year-over-year, after hovering in the mid-to-high eight-share range for the past four years.

The AC format received an average 72% ratings lift during the holiday months from 2012-2016, according to Nielsen, while soft AC got a 40% boost. Country typically took the biggest ratings hit, losing an average 14% of its listening, followed by regional Mexican (minus 11%).

“In some markets, there is one station that kind of owns it and they’re the Christmas-branded station and no one else even tries to go Christmas,” Nielsen’s VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller says. “But it’s not uniform around the country; what we’ve learned over time is that people have a big appetite for Christmas music and so there is room for a lot of stations and formats to dabble in that.”