Nielsen

Talk about a rewarding holiday season. For those radio stations that own the all-Christmas format in their markets, it is typical to experience a 72% audience spike in listening. That’s the word from Nielsen’s VP of Audience Insights Jon Miller, in a new episode of the company’s podcast “The Database,” focused on “Getting Into the Spirit with Holiday Media.”

Whether it’s the sound of holiday hits on the radio or holiday movies on TV programming, media plays a big role in getting consumers into the spirit of the holidays, Nielsen says. As we know, by the beginning of December, around 500 radio stations across the U.S. switch to an all-Christmas music format. On TV, almost 100 million homes across the country tuned in to some kind of holiday programming last year.

“These numbers highlight the opportunities radio and TV provide for brands and advertisers to reach eager holiday shoppers,” Nielsen points out.

At radio, “the holiday format has become somewhat of a phenomenon over the past 15 or so years,” Miller says, with the majority of those 500 stations that flip to all-Christmas targeting the period just after Thanksgiving. “This is the natural transitional period and also when the audience reacts,” he says. “You’ll see a spike then when the listening really ramps up.”

Looking at data over the past decade, he adds, “There is clear movement in the audience that begins on Black Friday. Christmas is here, the Christmas mindset really begins and radio stations know that.”

While AC outlets typically rule the all-Christmas format in most markets—“and it reaps rewards for them from a ratings perspective throughout the holiday season,” according to Miller, we are now seeing two or three stations that go all-Christmas in a number of markets, as Inside Radio analyzed in a Dec. 18 story.

“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,” Miller explains. “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,” including, most often, country and classic hits formats.

And while the leading Christmas station in a market can see an astonishing lift of 72% during November and December, compared with their audience the rest of the year, Nielsen says, it is often to the detriment of ratings at other formats—and obviously, often within station clusters.

“Going to Christmas creates a dynamic in the radio listening marketplace that doesn’t exist during the rest of the year and it changes the way people use radio,” Miller says. “So while there are stations that go way up, like, AC there are some that go down,” most often country, CHR and regional Mexican, Nielsen has found. “The stations going all-Christmas are having an effect not just on their own ratings but also on the audiences of a lot of other stations in the market, too.”