Christmas tree Used Nov 2019

More ACs that own the Christmas position in their markets flipped the switch early this year and the first two batches of ratings from Nielsen’s December survey offer a glimpse of how that strategy – and execution – panned out. The December book, which covers the period from Nov. 7 – Dec. 4 is the first of two ratings surveys to show the seasonal format’s impact on listening trends.

In Chicago, “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT-FM decked the halls Nov. 5, two days before the December book began, and the iHeartMedia AC more than doubled its AQH share, surging 4.7-9.5 (Nov.-Dec.). While WLIT typically gets the most ratings oomph from Christmas in the top markets, its 2019 performance is more than a full share better than the 8.4 it notched in December 2018. The 9.5 propelled WLIT to first place, from fifth in November, disrupting the first place tie between urban AC sister WVAZ and Entercom’s news simulcast of WBBM-WCFS (780, 105.9), which slipped to second and third, respectively.

All numbers quoted are Persons 6+, AQH share, Mon.-Fri., 6a-midnight.

In Houston, iHeart AC “Sunny 99.1” KODA was another early bird, transitioning Nov. 7. It too finished first, up from third (5.8-7.8), narrowly edging out Radio One urban AC KMJQ, which topped the market in November. But KODA did better in December 2018 when it was nearly two shares higher than this go-round.

In Los Angeles, iHeart AC KOST (103.5) flipped the switch Nov. 8, making it all Christmas for almost the entire December survey. That allowed KOST to regain the top spot in Los Angeles and its 5.2-9.3 surge out-performed the 9.0 it had in December 2018.

Other stations waited until week No. 2 of the December survey to tinsel the town. In Dallas, iHeart AC “Star 102.1” KDGE made the transition Nov. 14, sending it from ninth to third (3.8-5.0), which is in line with the 5.1 it posted one year earlier.

New York’s “Lite FM” WLTW, which converted Nov. 15, grew from a 7.1 in November to a 9.6 in December to continue its long streak as the top station in the top market. The iHeart AC did half a share better than last December. WLTW also careened to the top of the embedded market of Nassau-Suffolk, with an 11th-to-first sleigh ride, more than doubling its ratings on Long Island.

Entercom AC “B101.1” WBEB Philadelphia also flipped Nov. 15, pushing the station from sixth to first (5.4-8.9) but falling short of the 10.4 it put on the books in December 2018.

In San Francisco, KOIT (96.5) waited until week No. 3 to begin its holiday format (Nov. 22). The Bonneville AC posted a 3.5-4.8 gain but missed the 6.4 it captured one year earlier.

In Atlanta, there were two Christmas stations: Salem Media Group contemporary Christian “The Fish” WFSH-FM (104.7), which mixed secular and religious Christmas music and gained 3.9-4.8 in the December 2019 survey. And Entercom hot AC “Star 94.1” WSTR, which waited until Dec. 11 to make the move so its impact won’t be seen until the Holiday book comes out in January.

Round Two

In the Nation’s Capital, iHeartMedia AC “97.1 Wash FM” WASH made its annual Christmas flip at 5pm Friday (Nov. 15), a week after the start of the December 2019 survey. The sounds of the season helped WASH move from fifth to second, advancing 6.1-5.4-8.1. The sounds of impeachment, however, kept American University news/talk WAMU out in front (8.1-8.9-8.8), with Hubbard news WTOP-FM moving from second to third (7.4-8.1-7.9).

In Detroit both iHeartMedia AC WNIC (100.3) and Entercom soft AC “98.7 The Breeze” WDZH started playing Christmas music Nov. 1. WNIC sleigh-rocketed to No. 1, adding nearly three shares (6.0-6.2-9.5), while “The Breeze” blew backwards (4.2-4.0-3.1). Ten days later, Seattle was hearing twice the yule, as Delilah helped Entercom soft AC “94.1 The Sound” KSWD introduce “The Sounds of Christmas,” getting a head-start on Hubbard crosstown AC “Warm 106.9” KRWM, which has long been “Seattle’s Christmas Station.” History repeats itself as “Warm 106.9” takes the top spot, moving 5.0-4.8-6.6 for No. 1 in the market, rising from fifth in November. “The Sound” wasn’t heard, decreasing 5.2-4.4-4.1, and sitting well outside of the Top 5. Sinclair Broadcast Group AC “Star 101.5” KPLZ-FM made the move to Christmas this year as well, and saw some early increases, moving 2.4-2.7-3.4. Last year, Crista Media contemporary Christian “Spirit 105.3” KCMS was also spinning Christmas songs by the time the holiday arrived.

iHeartMedia AC “KEZ 99.9” KESZ Phoenix, already leading the market, flipped to Christmas music in early November and promptly adds five shares (7.0-7.1-11.0). Tinsel town also came earlier than usual to Denver as Bonneville soft AC KOSI (101.1) made its annual Christmas flip just before 5pm Friday, Nov. 8. The move resulted in a rise to the top of the rankers as KOSI moved, 4.1-4.2-6.7.

A new entry to the all-Christmas foray is iHeartMedia hot AC “Mix 100.7” WMTX Tampa, which takes on annual holiday hits bastion Cox Media Group soft AC “105.5 The Dove” WDUV in a head-to-head holiday book battle. WMTX ushered in “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Friday, Nov. 22 at 5pm, getting an early drive time lead on WDUV, which began its Christmas music programming at midnight Saturday, Nov. 23. “The Dove” flew to top of the market, 7.9-8.6-9.8, while it may be too early to tell what Santa brought for WMTX, which remained relatively flat (3.3-3.8.3.7).