As has been the case the past few years, Christian pop station Fish 104.7 is the first local metro-wide station to go all Christmas.
At 7:37 a.m., the station opted for a new Christmas song by Christian artist Francesca Battistelli called “Christmas Is.”
This is the 11th year in a row the Fish has gone this route. Although it doesn’t really improve Fish’s ratings, the Christian pop station has stuck with the format change because its listeners now expect it. Most Christian pop stations focus on Christmas at this time of year. (Southside Christian station Joy 93.3 usually changes to Christmas at some point, too.)
Over the past few years, its primary Christmas competitor was B98.5, which has launched Christmas the same day, usually around noon but opted for fewer overtly religious Christmas songs than the Fish, which makes sense. It had gone all Christmas every year since 2004, but this year will be different.
B98.5 began playing some Christmas cuts on Thanksgiving day but has decided not to go all Christmas this year. The pop station, which has been going more current the past 18 months despite still playing cuts from the 1980s and 1990s, has been playing three or four cuts an hour and will ramp up more holiday tunes as it gets closer to Christmas Day. It also recently hired a new program director in Chris Eagan.
Some Christmas fans are protesting vigorously about it but the move every year also turns off people who don’t want to hear Christmas tunes all the time. It has in year’s past given B98.5 a big Christmas ratings boost but in recent years, that effect has not given the station any tangible halo effect after Dec. 25.
Here’s Eagan’s statement on the subject:
When a listener inquires about the Christmas music we explain that based on research and ratings we have decided to not play 24/7 Christmas music as we have in the past. This year we’re mixing some Christmas songs in with our regular playlist and gradually playing more and more as we get closer to 12/25. Our research has shown that the vast majority of people don’t want the switch to “flip” per se, they’d like music sprinkled in with our normal programming.
The decision was made to not go all Christmas based upon the research I mentioned above and slipping ratings last Christmas season. If the demand for 24/7 Christmas music changes, we would certainly consider bringing it back next year, but we will have to evaluate that in 2013.
The first station in Atlanta to go all Christmas was soft pop station Peach 94.9 in 2000. It was a huge hit, which led others to follow. But Peach (which became Lite in late 2002) became a country station right before Christmas in 2006, cutting the Christmas music off in mid December.
Fish’s first Christmas hour included a mix of popular favorites sung by Christian artists (Relient K’s “Sleigh Ride,” MercyMe’s “Joseph’s Lullaby”), originals such as Battistelli’s, and classics by secular artists (Burl Ives‘ “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” Michael Buble’s “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”).
As it has in past years, Fish has also teamed with Chick-fil-A to give listeners wishes. Needs range from help with Christmas gifts to home repairs and medical needs. The program typically generates more than 1,000 nominations annually. The program has given away more than $250,000 in goods and services each year.
I’ve already been listening to all Christmas on Sirius/XM’s Love channel, which becomes Holly. That station switched over a week ago.