Last Fall, dmr unveiled the first-ever comprehensive study of Christmas music in PPM markets. The study — which will be updated with new PPM markets next year — showed that a switch to Christmas music comes with big benefits along with some hidden costs.
Unwrapping The Present: The Magic & Myth of Christmas Music, looked at Christmas music stations WLTW New York, KODA Houston, and WBEB Philadelphia. Three five-week periods were used to group listening before, during, and after Christmas.
Not surprisingly, the all-holiday format triggers a massive audience increase. KODA doubled its 27,600 AQH persons during the five-week Christmas period. Typically, ratings gains are driven by an increase in the average number of occasions, not time spent per occasion. That’s not the case for any of the Christmas music stations. In fact the average number of occasions goes down from 21 to 16 per week. However, time per occasion increase by 20 percent from nine minutes to 11 minutes.
In addition, prior to Christmas, KODA was running with a 197,000 P1 cume; during Christmas, it shot up to 375,000.
One-third were previous KODA P1s, two-thirds were new P1s. We saw a similar effect in Philadelphia and New York. In each case, the majority of the new P1s came from older rock (classic and hits) or news/talk and sports formats. WLTW’s and WBEB’s newfound P1s had similar formatic origins. (Fred Jacobs recently released some PPM analyses that demonstrated similar conclusions here.)
After Christmas music, KODA’s ratings were flat or below what they had been before the switch. KODA lost nearly 200,000 P1s after Christmas—more than they gained. Why? Looking at every listener KODA had in the five weeks before Christmas, we discovered 43% of KODA’s prime P1’s (heavy radio users who are deeply loyal) go away while KODA is in all-holiday mode and they don’t come back in the five weeks after holiday programming ends.
So, while the station nearly doubles its P1 cume with new listeners from rock, news/talk and sports, most of those new P1s go back to their usual choices. Left with 43% fewer prime P1s, KODA’s AQH drops because those who remain don’t use radio as much; overall they’re not very good radio listeners. A similar pattern emerged in New York and Philadelphia.
WBEB lost one-third of its prime P1s but gained 244% in new P1s during Christmas and swelled up to almost 88,000 AQH persons (up from 37,000). In New York, WLTW lost half its prime P1s but more than made up for it in new P1 reinforcements.
In all three cases, prime P1s fade during Christmas music by an average of one-third to one-half, and most did not return. Instead, stations temporarily gain P1s and afterward end up flat or slightly better after Christmas music ends. That new structural change in audience makes it more difficult to sustain or build ratings in late January and February without actively marketing to your P1 listeners who switched during Christmas music.