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KLUV/98.7 FM launches Christmas format (udpate)

Posted 11:33am on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013

Update: KLUV is now all-Christmas. It made the switch at 5:15 a.m. Nov. 15. If history holds, it will stay with the holiday format through Dec. 25. After that ... well, read below (originally posted Nov. 11)

When KVIL/103.7 FM tweaked its format in May, dropping the “Lite” brand it had used for several years for a more uptempo “Best Variety ... ’90s, 2K & Today” sound, I asked a station spokeswoman whether it would continue to do Christmas music, which it had done since 2001. I was told that it was still being discussed.

This seemed odd. The Christmas format, which KVIL usually launches in mid-November, has been a big winner for the station; it has ruled Arbitron’s (now Nielsen Audio’s) “holiday” ratings period, regularly coming in first -- the only times since Arbitron introduced Portable People Meters in DFW 2008 that KHKS/106.1 FM “KISS-FM” hasn’t topped the overall ratings chart.

Why wouldn’t KVIL stick with what has worked so well for so long? Because CBS Radio, which owns KVIL, had other plans.

In October, tireless national radio journalist Tom Taylor reported that KVIL’s sister station, KLUV/98.7 FM, would pick up the Christmas mantle this year. And after that report has been out there for a few weeks, CBS Radio has confirmed it. They’re just not saying when the Christmas music is going to start.

“We’re passing the torch from KVIL to KLUV,” Ron Harrell, director of music programming for CBS Radio Dallas-Fort Worth, says in a release. “Christmas music is a natural fit with KLUV’s classic-hits format, and our listeners will embrace it.”

Also shifting with the music will be such events as the Children’s Medical Center Radiothon, which will be led by KLUV morning-show host and Fort Worth native Jody Dean.

The other part of Taylor’s post that has radio-watchers talking -- and sure to be talking some more now that his prediction of a holiday flip has proved accurate -- is this line: “Wouldn’t it be something, if CBS changed format on KLUV, after the holidays? Specifically, how about another ‘Amp’-style station, to challenge (as CBS does in so many other large markets) the dominant Clear Channel CHR?”

In DFW, KISS is the dominant Clear Channel CHR (contemporary hits radio, aka top 40) station, and it’s withstood a challenge from Cumulus’ KLIF/93.3 FM “i93,” which has done better than a lot of people (including me) expected it to. CBS went after KISS before in the early 21st century with the “Hot” and “Wild” formats, neither of which succeeded in taking KISS down. Both were on 100.3 FM, which has run the variety “Jack-FM” format since summer of 2004.

A CBS spokeswoman says that a post-Christmas format change is not planned for KLUV, which placed seventh overall in the latest Nielsen Audio ratings (for October) and has been holding more or less steady in the ratings for at least the past six months but is down from a year ago, while KVIL saw a big dropoff in overall ratings in September and October. (All ratings info is via www.allaccess.com). Overall ratings don’t tell the whole story, though, and it has been over a year since KLUV cracked the top five in its target 25-to-54-year-old demographic.

And there’s been speculation that, with the death of Kidd Kraddick this year, KISS and its flagship show Kidd Kraddick in the Morning are vulnerable. But KKITM listeners are a loyal bunch, and KISS has not shown any signs of weakness. No station holds the No. 1 slot forever, but no station taking on KISS on its own turf is going to win that battle, either.

With i93 already in play as a KISS competitor, an “Amp”-style station would be the third CHR in the market (and there’s a whole lot of playlist overlap with other formats). But as we’ve seen with sports-talk KRLD/105.3 FM “The Fan,” CBS has no qualms about being the third station in a format in a crowded market.

KLUV’s call letters were established in January 1984, according to Mike Shannon’s History of Dallas-Fort Worth Radio and Television. It began playing oldies in 1985, and as demographics have shifted, it has become more of a “classic hits” station during the past few years, with a playlist heavy on the ’70s with some ’60s and ’80s thrown in.

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