The Santa Strategy of Increasing Radio Ratings and Revenue

Written By: Ashli Jarrett

The Christmas holiday season is upon us – and consumers are already seeing Christmas around them. Have you visited your favorite stores this week and seen holiday decorations and gift giving displays? Christmas music adds to that “familiar favorite”” – remembering special gatherings with friends and family and reminiscing on your favorite holiday moments.

What is your favorite Christmas song? “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Michael Bublé, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey, “Last Christmas” by Wham!, or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Burl Ives?

You may notice that you’re already hearing Christmas music on the radio. One of the first radio stations to flip to All Christmas music was KEZ-FM in Phoenix, AZ in 1990. Over the years, many other radio stations have adopted this strategy. Some radio stations flip as early as November 1st, or the day after Thanksgiving. Stations may flip to 100% Christmas music, or slowly add more Christmas music to the current playlist the closer they get to Christmas. What is the benefit to a radio station to switch to Christmas music? And why do they flip so early?

Below are a few of the main reasons radio stations flip to Christmas music:

  1. Increase ad spending for categories such as retail, entertainment, and seasonal businesses, in addition to creating new revenue streams.
  2. Bring new listeners to the station, and keep them as a listener after the Christmas music ends
  3. Increase ratings, which drives up the cost of the commercial.

Revenue generation: Radio stations continuously look for unique ways to generate additional revenue, aside from selling the standard on-air commercials. Below are a few ideas of events and promotions that radio stations have created to capitalize on revenue on Christmas music:

  • On-air sponsorships for holiday music: “This hour of Christmas music is brought to you by XYZ Company”
  • On-site events: Toy Drives and/or Toy Drop-off locations. Radio stations will work with community organizations to promote toy drives/toy drop-off locations.
    • The community organization receives the on-air and online promotion from the radio station (reaching that station’s listeners).
    • The radio station partners with an organization that is serving a need to the community. Stations will sell various sponsorships.
    • “The Annual Toy Drive for XYZ Organization, sponsored by Company A and Company B, on-site at C Location. We’ll be collecting toys for the kids all day today…”

New Listeners and Increase in Ratings:

  • New listeners tune-in to the station to hear Christmas music, of keeping the listener after the holidays.
  • Listeners stay tuned-in longer to the station – and the time spent listening to a station is KEY in how the ratings are formulated. Increased audience + Higher TSL = Higher ratings – the perfect combination!

James Howard, Regional Senior Vice President-Programming with iHeartMedia-Chicago says, “We launch Holiday Music on WLIT- 93.9 LITE FM to meet our #1 strategic goal which is connect our audience and advertisers. The Holiday version of our product truly stands out because of the shared energy millions of Chicagoans feel. There are very few moments in our lives when we want to share them with strangers, and Holiday music is designed to be consumed communally. Our audience and advertisers are not alone while turning up 93.9 LITE-FM, they are sharing it with each other as a Chicago tradition. We can talk about the ratings more than doubling and time spent listening tripling over any other medium, but that’s not why we do it. We play Holiday music because it’s what Chicago wants and expects from 93.9 LITE-FM.”

Not all music listeners are receptive to all-Christmas music. According to Kix Layton, VP of Programming for iHeartMedia-Carolinas Division, which owns and operates over 855 radio stations throughout the United States, “Typical formats that flip to Christmas music are Adult Contemporary or Oldies, as these listeners adjust better to all-Christmas music. There are typically 100-125 Christmas songs in rotation for a radio station that turns to 100% Christmas music. This means a Christmas song will be played about every 2.5-3 hours.”

Have any questions on how to navigate your radio marketing plans? Marshall Advertising can help you navigate the waters of traditional media buying (radio, television, cable, and out of home) as well as digital and social media buying (including YoutubeTV, pre-roll video, and streaming audio).

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