Should One Of Your Stations Play Holiday Music All Year?


Maybe. Every season, it seems, the holiday music starts earlier and earlier as stations across the country try to take advantage of the good cheer — and get better ratings. According to Nielsen, the 2018 holiday season turned out to be another record breaker for Adult Contemporary stations broadcasting the “all-Christmas” format.

The release of Nielsen’s holiday book portable people meter (PPM) ratings, covering the period from Dec. 6, 2018 to Jan. 2, 2019, confirms that the appetite for holiday music—particularly on AC stations, which tend to go “all-Christmas” more than any other format—keeps growing each year.

The AC format, which has continued to gain audience growth in the past few years and is now the second-most-listened-to format during the balance of the year across the PPM markets (behind News/Talk), set a record in 2017 for share of audience during the holiday survey (13.9% AQH share among listeners 6+). AC then followed up that performance in 2018 by setting another new record in 2018, hitting a 14.3% share, which is the highest number on record for the format under PPM measurement.

Adult Contemporary Programming Consultant Gary Berkowitz is not surprised. “Christmas “time” is the greatest season of the year with huge appeal across all demographics and all groups. The music clearly adds to the joy of the season and the stations who play this music benefit from huge cume and TSL (the killer combination for ratings success). Plus, since the all Christmas format has been around for a long time and we’ve learned the best songs to play, so the appeal of long and frequent listening is greater than ever. Most of the AC stations I work with go all Christmas and the results are simply amazing.”

Nielsen also reports that the start of holiday music on the radio affects all music formats as listening habits and consumer tastes shift. “Historically, AC is the format that gains the most audience share during the end of the year, while other formats stay flat or even see declines as radio audiences migrate to and from holiday programming at that time of year. 2018’s results mirrored the historical trends compiled over the years: AC’s audience share increased 86% in just two months last year, and the chart below maps the change in audience share between the November book and the holiday book. AC and Soft AC gained the most, while Country, Mexican Regional and Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) saw the most decline around “all-Christmas” music.


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