The Christmas format brought a bigger ratings bang in 2019 to heritage ACs that own the lucrative position in their markets. It also delivered record-shattering ratings in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

In Day One of Nielsen’s Holiday 2019 survey results released Wednesday, five of the seven major-market ACs synonymous with the yuletide format delivered year-over-year gains. One station was flat and one declined, when compared with Holiday 2018 ratings.

Nielsen’s Holiday survey covers the period from Dec. 5, 2019-Jan. 1, 2020. Unless otherwise noted, all numbers quoted are Persons 6+, AQH share, Mon.-Fri., 6a-midnight.

With a whopping 18.6, Entercom AC “B101.1” WBEB Philadelphia gained two shares over its Holiday 2018 performance, eclipsing its previous high water mark of 17.9, set in the Holiday 2016 book. More significantly, the 18.6 is the highest share registered by any Philly station in the PPM era, according to ratings historian Chris Huff. To find a bigger share in the market, you have to go back more than half a century, to Jan./Feb. 1967, when AM ruled the dial and then-MOR WIP (610) dominated Philly with 19.5 share (12+).

In Los Angeles, iHeart AC KOST (103.5) has been on a four-year Holiday ratings tear, rising from 10.7 in the Holiday 2016 survey to 11.9 in 2017, 13.0 in 2018 and 13.7 in 2019. That 13.7 is the largest share registered by any L.A. station since meters replaced diaries as ratings currency in L.A. in September 2008, per Huff’s database.

In New York, iHeartMedia’s “Lite FM” WLTW nailed a 13.3, beating its 2018 share of 12.5 and tying its 2016 performance.

Like its New York counterpart, iHeartMedia AC “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT-FM Chicago tied its 2016 mark with a 13.7, up from 12.4 in 2017 and 13.3 in 2018.

In Dallas, iHeart AC “Star 102.1” KDGE added more than three shares, jumping to 10.3 from 7.1 in 2018. That marks its biggest number since flipping from alternative in November 2016.

In San Francisco, Entercom’s KOIT held steady at a 10.7 from 2018.

iHeart AC “Sunny 99.1” KODA Houston was the only top 10 market Christmas AC to decline year over year, so far. It slipped from 12.5 (2017) to 12.1 (2018) to 11.6 (2019).

Topping The Ranker

Christmas topped the 6+ ranker in every major market report released so far, except Atlanta where it was No. 2. The new numbers show often seismic gaps between the Christmas outlet and the No. 2 station. In New York, WLTW more than doubled second place SBS tropical WSKQ. That’s especially remarkable when you consider that WSKQ matched its largest PPM share, set in January 2016. KOST nearly tripled the ratings of second place Entercom classic hits KRTH in L.A. WLIT Chicago had more than twice the share of No. 2 iHeart urban AC WVAZ. In Houston, KODA nearly doubled the ratings of Radio One urban AC KMJQ. And in Philly, WBEB delivered nearly triple the share of Entercom sports WIP-FM.

In 2019, Atlanta was home to two Christmas stations: Salem Media Group contemporary Christian “The Fish” WFSH-FM, which mixed secular and religious Christmas music and ranked second (6.7); and Entercom hot AC “Star 94.1” WSTR, which waited until Dec. 11 to make the move and turned in a 4.3 (ranked ninth) for its largest share since November 2016, according to Huff.

One trend that marked the 2019 Christmas season was more stations flipping the switch earlier. WLIT, KODA and KOST were in all-Christmas mode by early November, while KDGE, WLTW and WBEB made the move in mid-November. That may have provided a stronger lead into the Holiday book. – Paul Heine