LOS ANGELES — Just over two weeks after Christmas and nine days into the new year, admittedly, doesn't provide much of a sample to gauge an industry "trend."
At the very least though, it is worth noting three interesting top 20 market developments that contain a common thread.
The last time a major market station transitioned to adult contemporary was in April 2016, when iHeartMedia San Francisco's urban-rhythmic oldies KISQ became "The Breeze.
Now that the all-Christmas music has come to an end, however, there are three new players under the AC banner.
Adult contemporary on the edge
Technically, the mini-parade to adult contemporary actually commenced before Christmas when iHeartMedia jettisoned 27 years of alternative programming on KDGE, Dallas in favor of adult contemporary.
Branded as "Star 102.1," the station launched all seasonal selections in mid-November, beginning with Wham's "Last Christmas," and continued that way through the holidays.
It officially became a fulltime AC the day after Christmas, debuting with Madonna's "Shining Star."
Over and above the significance that a top five market outlet opted to AC is the specific metro itself.
To borrow from the title of the aforementioned Madonna track, KVIL was a heritage adult contemporary facility – one of the format's authentic "shining stars."
For the past two and a half years though, CBS Radio has evolved KVIL from mainstream adult contemporary to hot AC and lately to CHR. In the process, Dallas was left without a mainstream AC signal – a rarity for a PPM-market (see the December 2016 ratings analysis below).
Regarding the newly-launched "Star 102.1," iHeartMedia Dallas senior vice president of programming Patrick Davis comments, "We believe this format will resonate well with the Dallas-Fort Worth audience and is a great complement to our other stations in the market."
Siblings of "Star" in that Texas cluster include CHR KHKS "106.1 Kiss-FM," #1 among persons 6+ in the December 2016 Nielsen Audio PPM (5.7); classic rock KZPS "Lone Star 92.5" (#4, 4.9, 6+); hot AC KDMX "Now 102.9" (#8, 4.0, 6+); and KEGL "97.1 The Eagle – Everything That Rocks" (#9, 3.5, 6+).
The December 2016 ratings period was November 3 – November 30, thus the KDGE format shift to an all-Christmas music adult contemporary occurred roughly at the midpoint. The result: "Star" emerges with a +1.2 from November 2016's 2.1 to 3.3 (6+) and rockets from #21 to #10.
Incidentally, with a 2.3 (6+), KVIL is in the unaccustomed position of being outside the top 20 (#21, 6+). Its most recent ratings success was four years ago, when – as an AC playing all-Christmas music – KVIL was second in December 2012 (6.1, 6+) and first in "Holiday" 2012 (8.5, 6+).
Second Philly AC ramps up
Last Thursday (1/5) at 10:00 am, CBS Radio Philadelphia modified CHR WZMP "Amp" to an adult contemporary lean with the handle "Today's 96.5."
As a result, WZMP simultaneously drops its format skirmish with cross-town iHeartMedia CHR WIOQ "Q-102," while taking aim at the market's longstanding AC, Jerry Lee's WBEB "More FM."
CBS Radio uses the "Amp" moniker elsewhere, including New York City (WBMP); Los Angeles (KAMP); Boston (WODS); Detroit (WDZH); and Orlando (WQMP).
Owing to last week's format switch, Philadelphia's version lasts less than two years on the former Beasley-owned property, previously rhythmic CHR WRDW "Wired 96.5 – Philly's Party Station."
CBS Radio Philadelphia senior vice president and market manager David Yadgaroff remarks WZMP's music mix will, "engage our audience on air, on-line, and onsite at concerts and local events. 'Today's 96.5' will bring fun and upbeat programming to Philadelphia radio. We will also offer the local and national advertising market unique sponsorship opportunities across all of our platforms." Program director Bobby Smith states, "This is a station that will make you forget you are still at work with one great song after another."
Representative artists will include Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake.
From a ratings standpoint, this is what "Today's 96.5" is facing against WBEB, which has had Philadelphia's AC lane to itself for years. Following a collective gain of eight-tenths (6.8 – 7.4 – 7.6, August – September – October, 6+), "More FM" dropped one-tenth in November, only to come roaring back in Nielsen Audio's December PPM with a humongous +3.6. Over and above being #1 for the fourth consecutive monthly, "More FM" boasts an 11.1. Its September 2016 +.6 halted three successive downward moves for a combined loss of one full-share (7.8 – 7.4 – 6.9 – 6.8, 6+). Prior to its current four straight month run at #1, "More FM" occupied the market's top spot for 12 consecutive survey periods (August 2015 through June 2016).
In calendar year 2016, "Q-102" was a perfect 12 – 0 in head-to-head (6+) matchups against "Amp."
Ironically, the closest "Amp" came to "Q-102" (January 2016 through December 2016) was six-tenths in the most recent sweep (3.6 – 3.0, December 2016, 6+) as well as in September 2016 (3.9 – 3.3, 6+). In December 2016, WIOQ is #10 and WZMP is #14.
Also in the picture is iHeartMedia hot AC WISX "Mix 106.1," which logs a 2.7 (6+) for the third successive time and finishes at #17. Historically hovering around a one-share (6+) is Connoisseur Media's below-the-line (Trenton, New Jersey) hot AC WPST.
Rock-burning Tampa transition
Nearly eight hours after WZMP, Philadelphia shifted from CHR to adult contemporary, Tampa's WBRN – at approximately 5:45 pm last Thursday (1/5) – debuted "The New B-98.7 Today's Hits & Yesterday's Favorites." The Beasley Media Group facility pulled the plug on WBRN's rock format and promised 10,000 adult contemporary songs in succession. The company's Tampa market manager, Kent Dunn, describes "B-98.7" as a "seamless complement to our cluster of classic hits [WRBQ 'Q-105'], country [WQYK '99.5 QYK'], Spanish CHR [WYUU '92.5 Maxima'], rhythmic CHR [WLLD 'WiLD 94.1'] and financial talk [WHFS-AM 'Money Talk 1010']. Our programming team put together an amazing product that will surely be a success in Tampa and St. Pete."
The three transformations to adult contemporary since the day after Christmas noted here have their own unique scenarios.
In Dallas, "Star" is attempting to fill a format hole that has been vacant for several years, while "Today's 96.5" in Philadelphia is going after an AC (WBEB) that has been a ratings juggernaut.
Perhaps the greatest challenge though might be in Tampa where "B-98.7," the former "Bubba Radio Network" and later "No Rules Rock"-branded outlet, becomes the market's thirdabove-the-line AC, practically unheard of in a top 20-market. Moreover, similar to WZMP, it will be knocking heads against a certified adult contemporary ratings powerhouse.
Even though Cox Media Group Tampa adult contemporary WDUV slips by one-tenth in back-to-back November 2016 – December 2016 sweeps (9.5 – 9.4 – 9.3, 6+), "Lite Favorites" reaches a genuine milestone: It is #1 for the 50th successive ratings period. For eight consecutive sweeps – "Holiday" 2015 through July 2016 – "Lite Favorites" was in double-digits (14.9 – 12.1 – 11.1 – 10.7 – 11.1 – 11.0 – 10.3 – 10.6, 6+).
If that weren't daunting enough (or some may view it as a great opportunity), WDUV adult contemporary cluster-mate, WWRM "Magic 94.9," is a consistently solid Tampa Bay competitor as well. Over the last 12 ratings periods, "Magic" has been within 4.8 (January 2016, 6+) to 5.6 (August 2016, 6+) range, including December 2016's 5.1, placing it fifth (6+).
Starting next month (2/6), married couple "Chadd & Kristi" Thomas will form the "98.7" morning team. Executive vice president of programming Justin Chase notes that, "For nearly two decades, Chadd & Kristi have developed a deep relationship with the Tampa listening audience. We are thrilled they decided to join us in building a new and great AC brand in the market. Chadd & Kristi are all about family and community, which is a perfect fit for Beasley's company culture." Chadd Thomas states, "We are thrilled to be part of the Beasley Media Group family, which shares our love of family, community and, the awesome power of radio," while Kristi Thomas adds, "Chadd and I are absolutely delighted to be part of creating a new radio station. We are excited about our new home for our special brand of radio in Tampa Bay."
Locked on 2.9 in November 2016 and December 2016 (#16, 6+), iHeartMedia's WXTB "98 Rock" could benefit from the "98.7" format switch.
Separated by just one-tenth (14.5 and 14.4, 6+), two Florida metros boast adult contemporary's highest collective December 2016 6+-shares.
In West Palm Beach, iHeartMedia's WOLL "Kool 105.5"; Alpha Media-owned WEAT "Sunny 107.9"; and JVC Media's WSVU "95.9 The Palm" combine for 14.5 (6+) shares, up by 1.3 shares from November 2016.
Meanwhile in Tampa, Cox Media Group cluster-mates WDUV "Lite Favorites" and WWRM "Magic 94.9" team up for a cumulative 14.4 shares (6+).
Stations shown here are adult contemporary Nielsen Audio subscribers who finished in the top 20 in any PPM-market (December 2016, 6+); Minneapolis is the only PPM metro without a qualifying AC.
Included in the San Francisco and San Jose totals is Alpha Media's KBAY, which, on Christmas Day (12/25) at 5:00 pm, concluded an approximately 20-year run as an adult contemporary station by becoming classic hits-oldies "94.5 Bay FM." With a 5.5 (+1.2 from November, 6+), KBAY is San Jose's #2 station in December 2016. As mentioned earlier, the Bay Area has a new (as of April 2016) adult contemporary player in KISQ. Even so, KBAY's format change comes relatively soon after it strung together 15 consecutive #1 finishes in San Jose (December 2014 through "Holiday" 2015).