It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but on radios nationwide it's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.
More than 150 FM music stations have already ditched regular programing this month in favor of an all-Christmas-music format, according to Inside Radio, a trade publication.
Dozens more are expected to follow suit in the next few weeks, ensuring that listeners from coast to coast will either get that fix of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole they've been craving – or go mad from repetitions of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."
The all-Christmas format has arrived steadily earlier over the past decade. In 2003, just 20 or so stations went all-Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But research shows that stations now compete to "own" the format in a given market. "It's a game of cat and mouse to see who'll go first when you have more than one station in a market," said Inside Radio senior editor Paul Heine.
Ratings are a driving factor. In 2012, all-Christmas stations saw a nine percent bump in listenership when compared with their pre-holiday programming. These stations may double or triple their ratings as a result of the format switch, said Heine. "It brings in a massive infusion of new listeners, many of those who don’t listen rest of the year."
Almost exclusively making the switch are stations that normally play adult contemporary or easy-listening music. But digital outlets are also jumping on the trend, including Pandora and Sirius XM satellite radio.
For the record, WQXR will not be switching to an all-Christmas format but the station will bring back its online Holiday Channel starting December 1.
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Updated 11/21 at 3 pm