Bonneville’s Brian Figula told Inside Radio earlier this week that he believes “Christmas music will be an even bigger escape this year compared to years past.” You can now make that an official radio industry mantra. As of Tuesday, Dec. 15, a record-breaking 540 stations have flipped to all-Christmas, shattering the previous record of 529 set in 2014, according to the Inside Radio/Precision Trak database.
“An election year and a pandemic?” notes Figula, Bonneville San Francisco’s Director of Programming “A recipe for ‘we need a little Christmas’ for sure.” Adds Todd Stach, Way-FM Network Program Director, “Christmas music takes listeners’ minds off of 2020, even for a part of their day.”
That is certainly truth, as multiple markets hope to become listeners’ dominant choice for Nat King Cole, Burl Ives and Andy Williams. In fact, precious few Nielsen markets still hold onto the idea that the AC in town has organic rights to become the one and only all-Christmas choice. Ironically, that does remain the case in the nation’s largest market, where iHeartMedia’s “Lite FM” WLTW New York is the single player spinning holiday favorites.
Including HD side channels and translator stations, what is now more common is what we see in Los Angeles and Chicago, where four and three stations, respectively, are playing a mix of classic Christmas songs or country Christmas, depending on their usual format, Inside Radio/Precision Trak reveals. In L.A., iHeart, Salem Media Group and Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters all have dedicated Christmas stations; while in Chicago, iHeart, EMF and University of Northwestern St. Paul are embracing the format.
And it’s not just the larger markets that are inundating the dial with jingle bells. In Albany, for example, Townsquare Media, Pamal Broadcasting and iHeart are all vying for a scoop of the pudding. And in Boise, Cumulus is having a snowball fight with two other companies: Townsquare Media and a contemporary Christian outlet owned by the Idaho Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists. And how about Cleveland-Akron, where there are four players in the holly jolly mix: Entercom, Media One Group, Salem and iHeart. The same goes for Madison, WI, where iHeart, Entercom, Magnum Media and University of Northwestern St. Paul have heaped four outlets on the Christmas bandwagon.
And yet, Seattle wins the prize for most outlets/companies indulging the market with so many Brenda Lee spins—with five stations on the dial. They are owned by Hubbard Broadcasting (with both an AC and adult standards), Crista Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Entercom.