A merry season for KOST

For the 10th year in a row, KOST-FM (103.5) celebrated the Christmas season by switching to nonstop holiday music, which predictably led to another celebration at the station: a ratings win for the late-November, early-December period.

Every year since 2001, KOST has traded its adult-contemporary format in mid-November for wall-to-wall holiday fare, sprinkling classics by Andy Williams, Bing Crosby and Vince Guaraldi with carols by newer artists such as Amy Grant and Josh Groban.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Arbitron ratings service, the move vaulted the station to the top spot among listeners 6 and older, attracting more than 400,000 additional listeners each week and grabbing a 6.2% share of the L.A.-Orange County audience.

The ratings surveyed listener habits from Nov. 10 to Dec. 7. Arbitron splits the year into 13 four-week segments, one labeled for each month plus a year-end “holiday” period, which this year runs from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4.

Although KOST didn’t perform as well as it did for the same period in 2010, when it garnered a 6.6% audience share, the station improved upon its showing in 2009, and even more so compared with 2008, when it finished second to pop outlet KIIS-FM (102.7).


And most likely, even better days lie ahead for KOST. Last year, as the calendar got closer to Christmas, KOST added to its December gains and trounced all other stations during the holiday ratings period. Those figures are scheduled for release Jan. 24.

This year KOST had competition in the caroling department, as smooth-adult-contemporary station KTWV-FM (94.7) went all-holiday music for the first time, making the switch on Nov. 13. Calling itself “L.A.'s new Christmas station,” “The Wave” got a two-day head-start on KOST.

But the onetime smooth-jazz station actually lost ground in the December ratings book, for the second month in a row. It fell from eighth place in October to 11th in November, then to 14th in December, slipping from a 3.4% share to 3.1% and now 2.6%.

Both KOST and KTWV returned to regular programming on Monday.

Sean Ross, radio analyst and executive editor of music and programming for the trade journal, said that in a market with a perennial Christmas-music station, the mind-set of a challenger is sometimes, “I’m going to go down anyway, maybe I can keep the other guy from going through the roof.”

Once a station has established itself as the go-to spot for Christmas music, the second station on the scene usually has trouble making headway. Ross said KTWV might have gained some Christmas-music fans, but lost some regular listeners who weren’t ready for seasonal music in November, even by typical Wave artists such as Anita Baker.

The overall No. 1 from the previous two months, talk station KFI-AM (640), dropped to second in the December survey, though it looked like it held on to most of its audience. KFI slipped from 5.6% in November to 5.2%; however, its average weekly audience scarcely changed, from 1.275 million to 1.245 million.

“There’s enough for everybody,” said Neil Saavedra, director of marketing at KFI. Both KFI and KOST are owned by Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio chain, as are KIIS, KBIG-FM (104.3) and four others in the Los Angeles market.

“We’re happy to see our sister station, KOST, get the love they deserve. That’s a fun time of the season,” Saavedra said. “We’ll come out swinging on the other side of the holidays.”

KFI maintained its dominance during morning drive, though. In the weekday 6-10 a.m. time slot that broadcasters value, KFI features a tag-team of local host Bill Handel and the first hour of Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated program. They once again led all challengers by a mile, maintaining their 7.3% share from November.

But coming up fast was KOST, which shot from eighth place in November to second in December, with the morning team of Mark Wallengren and Kristin Cruz claiming a 4.6% audience share, up from 3.4%. They pushed November’s second-place finisher, Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo on regional Mexican music station KSCA-FM (101.9), to third.

KOST program director Stella Prado said in an email, “I’m very pleased and proud of KOST. With it being our 10-year anniversary on playing our Christmas format, it’s great to know that L.A. and O.C. know that KOST is the Christmas station.”




Radio ratings

The area’s top 25 stations and their average share of audience as measured by Arbitron from Nov. 10 to Dec. 7, compared with the previous four-week period.

Station Now Prev.

1. KOST-FM 6.2 3.9

2. KFI-AM 5.2 5.6

3. KIIS-FM 4.4 5.0

4. KAMP-FM 4.3 3.9

5. KRTH-FM 4.0 3.9

6. KPWR-FM 3.8 4.1

7. KBIG-FM 3.5 3.1

8. KLVE-FM 3.4 3.6

9. KNX-AM 3.3 3.2

10. KSCA-FM 3.2 3.6

KHHT-FM 3.2 3.5

12. KLAX-FM 3.1 2.7

13. KKGO-FM 2.9 2.8

14. KTWV-FM 2.6 3.1

15. KCBS-FM 2.5 2.4

KROQ-FM 2.5 2.9

17. KBUE-FM 2.4 2.0

KYSR-FM 2.4 2.3

KLOS-FM 2.4 2.7

20. KXOL-FM 2.3 1.9

21. KPCC-FM 2.1 2.3

22. KSWD-FM 2.0 2.4

KHJ-AM 2.0 2.0

24. KRCD-FM 1.7 2.1

25 KDAY-FM 1.5 1.5

KFSH-FM 1.5 1.5

The rating survey covers people 6 and older listening between 6 a.m. and midnight.