For AC stations mining the ratings gold of holiday music, Nielsen’s December PPM survey is one for the record books. Fueled by an earlier than normal appetite for the seasonal format, AC’s national audience share hit a 10.5 share of listeners aged 6+ in the new numbers, which Nielsen says marks a December high dating back to the beginning of comprehensive PPM measurement.
Nielsen’s “December” survey covers Nov. 9-Dec.6 and only reflects the initial ratings wallop from the all-Yule format. The full impact won’t be known for another month, when the Holiday book is released, which covers Dec.7, 2017-Jan. 3, 2018. But during the December survey, holiday classics shimmered brighter, beating December 2016 by nearly two shares. AC went 8.7-10.5, year-over-year, after hovering in the mid-to-high eight-share range for the past four years.
Perhaps it was the need to escape the tumult of the 2017 news cycle, but listeners gravitated more toward holiday music this year than they have since Nielsen began tracking monthly format trends in the 48 PPM-measured markets. The closest AC came to this year’s record December was a 10.0 in December 2011.
Meanwhile, December 2017’s 10.5 is up from a 7.6 in November 2017.
Instances of holiday-fueled ACs beating their December performances from last year abound. Jerry Lee’s AC “More FM At 101.1” WBEB led the Philadelphia market in December 2016 with an 11.1. This year Santa left a 6+ share of 12.8 under the tree. Bing, Brenda and Burl propelled iHeartMedia AC “106.7 Lite FM” WLTW New York from an 8.3 last December to an 8.8 this year. Across the country, Santa’s elves carried AC sister KOST (103.5) Los Angeles from a 6.4 last December to an 8.7 this year. In the Motor City, iHeart AC WNIC Detroit (100.3) flew to a first-place 11.8, five shares higher than it did one year earlier when it posted a 6.8. The market-topping 8.8 that Entercom AC “Magic 106.7” WMJX Boston achieved in December 2017 was a full share better than last year. In the Twin Cities, iHeart classic hits “Kool 108” KQQL Minneapolis-St. Paul rocketed from a 7.6 in December 2016 to a 9.0 in December 2017. Even Cox Media Group’s soft AC “105.5 The Dove” WDUV Tampa-St. Petersburg improved on last year’s 9.3, climbing into double-digit territory with a 10.4 in 2017.
Other year-over-year December survey gains came from iHeart soft AC “Sunny 99.1” KODA Houston (7.3-8.9), AC sister “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT Chicago (6.3-8.5), Bonneville-operated AC KOIT San Francisco (4.8-6.8), Salem Communications contemporary Christian “The Fish” WFSH-FM Atlanta (4.6-7.2), iHeart AC WASH Washington, DC (5.9-7.8), Entercom AC “Today’s 101.9” WLIF Baltimore (8.3-9.7), Bonneville soft AC KOSI Denver (6.5-7.8) and iHeart AC KESZ Phoenix (9.8-12.1). All numbers quoted are AQH share, 6+, December 2016-December 2017.
Breaking out the December 2017 survey by dayparts, Nielsen’s number crunchers found that afternoon drive drove a significant uptick in tune-ins for AC stations. Nielsen compared five years of data trends, by daypart, examining the average audience for AC stations during the bulk of the year compared to the November, December and Holiday surveys. It found that AC audiences increase nearly 30% during PM drive at the end of the year thanks to the all-Christmas format, compared to an 18% jump in morning drive and a 21% lift in middays.