While America might not need a little Christmas as much as it did in early November 2020, with a raging second wave of COVID and a contested Presidential election result, you'd never know it from radio. To date, more than 100 stations have made the switch to all-holiday music compared to just over 90 this time a year ago, driven by more than 80 iHeartMedia stations having flipped so far, with more on the way, such as Los Angeles Adult Contemporary KOST on Friday Nov. 12.
Major market stations having flipped early include iHeart ACs “93.9 Lite FM” Chicago, “Sunny 99.1” KODA Houston, KESZ-FM Phoenix, WNIC Detroit and “Mix 100.7” WMTX Tampa, along with Classic Hits “Kool 108” KQQL Minneapolis. iHeart stations' early switches, most of which happened last Friday, tie in with its second annual iHeartRadio Holiday Special, a virtual concert featuring Kelly Clarkson, Michael Bublé, Train and Pentatonix performing popular holiday classics, airing Nov. 24 on its AC, hot AC and classic hits stations.
The Christmas format flips have so far resulted in more than one station playing the music 24/7 in several markets. In Columbus, GA, iHeart AC “Sunny 100” WGSY goes head-to-head with PMB Broadcasting AC “103.7 Lite FM” WLTC, while in Youngstown, OH, both Cumulus Classic Hits WWIZ and iHeart AC “Mix 98.9” WMXY are spreading holiday cheer.
“When our adult contemporary and some of our classic hits stations flip to Christmas music in November, we actually double the size of our audience, [seeing] an increase of between 10-12 million listeners during that time and the week before Christmas, in some markets even higher,” iHeart President of Programming Operations Jon Zellner said at a webinar for advertisers earlier this year. “Everyone from the ages of six to 80 is singing along to the same songs in the car. This is mass appeal radio, and this is why we see audience increases.”