One of Kansas City’s most fleeting, yet wildly profitable radio formats appears to have gone homeless…
For years adult contemporary stations Star 102 and KUDL FM duked it out for the hearts and ears of lovers of 24/7 Christmas music. Star led the way under former main man Jon Zellner. Entercom followed on KUDL, resulting in year after year of Christmas music warfare between the stations.
And while the day after Thanksgiving was good enough to start, competition between the stations resulted in earlier and earlier launch dates for the holiday music format. The idea being that whoever got there first would lock in more listeners.
Four years ago on Halloween day I bade readers both Trick or Treat and Happy Thanksgiving.
"Enjoy those fleeting holiday sentiments while you can, because any second the Christmas Music Elves at KUDL-FM and Star 102 may break out the holiday cheer in the form of 24/7 Santa songs," I warned. "Last year KUDL led off the yule parade the day after Halloween. Star 102 held off for a couple of weeks and paid the price. Both stations fared well, but KUDL was the clear ratings winner."
However, times have changed…
For the first time since the Christmas Music Wars began the warring stations are no more.
Both Star 102 and KUDL are history. Wilks Broadcasting put Star out to pasture last year and ressurected it as an adult alternative station that goes by Alice. Entercom followed, pulling the plug on KUDL this spring, using its FM signal to simulcast NewsRadio KMBZ.
"What’s going to happen to Christmas music," wonders former Entercom head Bob Zuroweste. "Who the hell is gonna do Christmas music?"
Good question. Here are a few of the options…
KUDL’s out, unless Entercom decides to slap Santa suits on Mike Shanin and Scott Parks and have ’em wail away like Captain Kirk. So cross that off the list of possibilities.
Alice could happen, but the station’s still trying to carve out its new identity and a couple of months of Jingle Bell Rock might be a bit much for its theoretically hipper listeners. Unless, of course, Cumulus competitor Jack FM decides to enter the fray. Then they’d both totally make sense.
And clearly there’s a ton of dough on the table for the station that pulls off the Christmas coup.
Another candidate; 94.9 KCMO, the station formerly known as "Oldies."
"Why wouldn’t they do it?" asks one radio insider. "It’s an older demo and they could sell the shit out of it."
"I’ve heard that KFKF is gonna do it," the insider says.
And of course, there’s always KUDL’s successor, The Point 99.7 FM.
While The Point is looking for younger listeners, it doubtless could benefit from the Christmas music sweet spot of women listeners ages 35 to 54.
So here’s the bottom line, Christmas music lovers:
"There’s a huge listenership for Christmas music," Zuroweste says. "One out of five people in Kansas City listened to Christmas music on the radio last year and here we are today and we don’t even know who’s going to play it. If I was going to to be playing Christmas music, I’d be out selling it right now. We used to start selling it on KUDL in August."
One thing’s for sure; whichever station decides to go Xmas will telegraph its holiday punch once it unleashes its sales staff. Then we’ll find out which if any station follows.
Let the caroling begin…