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KTWV-FM aims to be 'L.A.'s new Christmas station'

The station known as the Wave hopes the shift from smooth adult contemporary to holiday favorites will translate into ratings gold, as it's done for KOST-FM.

November 18, 2011|By Lee Margulies, Los Angeles Times

It stands to reason that with KOST-FM (103.5) shooting to the top of the ratings in the last couple of years when it's shifted to an all-holiday music format, someone else in the L.A. market would try to get in on the action.

That someone is KTWV-FM (94.7), which with little fanfare Sunday proclaimed itself "L.A.'s new Christmas station," setting aside its usual smooth adult contemporary format in favor of holiday music through Christmas Day.

KOST made its move Tuesday, implementing the temporary format change that has brought it growing success since the soft-rock station first decided to give it a try as an antidote to the national mood of glumness that followed Sept. 11, 2001 (although parent Clear Channel had been using the format in other markets before that).

"Christmas music stations typically do very well and grow their audience," said Jhani Kaye, program director at CBS-owned KTWV and oldies station KRTH-FM (101.1). He knows from experience: He was station manager at KOST when it made the switch in 2001. And KRTH got a boost with Christmas fare in 2008.

Kaye already has shaken things up at KTWV, better known as the Wave. After taking charge of the programming in January 2010, he moved from the smooth jazz format the station had been featuring since 1987, adding more vocals but keeping the relaxing, easygoing style that had been the Wave's hallmark. KTWV ranked No. 8 in the most recent Arbitron ratings, right behind KOST.

The challenge was to give the Christmas playlist a distinctive flavor that regular listeners of the Wave would recognize (and stay tuned to, of course).

"For the Wave," Kaye said, "we took the best of the old playlist from when I was across the street [at KOST], combined it with the smooth instrumental artists the Wave audience loves and melded all into the perfect melody for the holidays. This way, we have preserved the 'vibe' of the Wave and integrated it into our holiday offering."

So along with standards by Frank Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole, Andy Williams and other artists who can also be heard on KOST, there are Christmas carols by R&B artists such as Al Jarreau, Toni Braxton and Luther Vandross, and instrumentals by the likes of Kenny G., Vince Guaraldi, Peter White and Russ Freeman.

And to further differentiate itself from KOST — and perhaps as an inducement to lure would-be KOST listeners — KTWV is also running a contest weekdays in which listeners can call in to win $1,000 any time Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" is played.

Asked for comment on the competition, KOST program director Stella Prado said Thursday, "I wish them all the best."

How are listeners reacting to the Wave's format change?

"Radio is very much like a restaurant," Kaye said. "Any time you adjust the menu, you will find that some people will miss their regular fare. There are also a group of regular customers and new patrons who will really enjoy the new offerings."

For those who are unhappy, he noted, the station will be returning to its regular menu Dec. 26.

Meanwhile, subscribers to Sirius XM Radio began getting two commercial-free channels of Christmas music on Monday, one featuring songs recorded in the 1940s, '50s and '60s (Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.), the other more recent recordings (Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, etc.). Starting Dec. 2, the satellite service will add holiday channels pegged to country, soul, Latin and classical tastes. A Hanukkah music channel will be offered from Dec. 20 to 28.

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