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Christmas Format Flip Report Card.

The trend among Christmas stations in 2020 was to flip the switch earlier than in past years, believing that 2020’s horrendous chain of events had audiences more than ready for a little Christmas cheer. How did that strategy play out? In the first batch of ratings from Nielsen’s December survey (which mostly covers November), Christmas stations are already No. 1 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Houston, second in Philadelphia, third in San Francisco and seventh in Atlanta.

Flipping in early November allows stations in PPM markets to reap the ratings rewards in two surveys: the December (Nov. 5-Dec. 2) and Holiday PPM (Dec. 3-Jan. 6) ratings books.

Several prominent stations moved under the mistletoe in early November, only days after Halloween and Election Day and weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Among them was iHeartMedia AC “Star 102” KDGE Dallas, which made the move Nov. 5, the first day of the December survey, and pulled a 5.7 total week 6+ share, beating the 5.0 it pulled last year for its highest December showing in at least six years. KDGE leapfrogged from No. 11 in November to No. 2 in December (3.5-5.7), second only to Salem Media Group contemporary Christian KLTY, which waited until Nov. 29 to deck the halls and held on to its top-rated perch, climbing 6.4-6.7.

In Los Angeles, iHeart’s KOST flipped Nov. 6 and more than doubled its November share (4.9-10.7) to vault into first place. That is more than a full share above December 2019’s 9.3 for its highest December performance in at least six years. “We did a pretty exhaustive survey with listeners asking, ‘Is it OK to go early, do you want Christmas or holiday music early this year?’ And it was a resounding ‘Yes,’” KOST Program Director John Peake told Variety. Morning host and market icon Ellen K, who presided over the local flip, agrees that the need for Christmas cheer was heightened in 2020. “This is my fifth year on KOST, and there was a lot of emotion on the other end of the line that I had not heard in Christmases past,” she said.

With a Nov. 6 flip, iHeartMedia AC “93.9 Lite FM” WLIT-FM Chicago lurched into first place (4.6-9.5), tying the number it pulled in December 2019 which was its best December 6+ share since at least 2015.

In fact, on Friday, Nov. 6 iHeartMedia said it had converted more than 80 of its stations to holiday music in a coordinated nationwide effort.

AC “Sunny 99.1” KODA waited a few days later, until Monday, Nov 9, advancing 7.0-7.6 in the December book, just below last year’s 7.8. That allowed KODA to advance from second to first, squeaking past news/talk sister KTRH which is tied for second place with Univision regional Mexican KLTN.

Did waiting till later in November prevent some stations from roping a bigger share? Or were some markets ready earlier than others?

Entercom AC “B101” WBEB, which went all-Christmas this year on Nov. 12, moved 4.8-7.2, a far cry from the 8.9 it notched in December 2019 and the 10.4 in 2018. But B101’s overall shares are lower than they used to be and it has typically not been among the first stations to go.

In New York, iHeartMedia AC “106.7 Lite FM” WLTW made the move Nov. 13.That delivered a 5.7-8.7 gain from November, putting it in first place but short of the 9.6 it pulled in December 2019 and less than its December share in 2018 and 2017.

In San Francisco, Bonneville AC KOIT waited until Nov. 23 and it jumped 4.4-6.3, outperforming December 2019’s 4.8, and just a tenth of a share below its December 2018 level. KOIT ranked third in the December 2020 book.

And in Atlanta, WFSH also converted Nov. 23 inching 4.2-4.5 from November, trailing the 4.8 (Dec. 2019) and 5.4 (Dec. 2018) it achieved in the last two years.

All AQH shares quoted are 6+, Mon.-Sun, 6am-midnight.

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