The lyric “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” has a special ring to it for KOST-FM (103.5).

The Clear Channel station has long climbed the charts during the holiday season when it switches to a Christmas music format after Thanksgiving. This year was no exception.

KOST took the top spot in the L.A. market radio ratings with a 7.1 percent share of polled listeners 6 years and older at the beginning of the holiday season, according to research firm Arbitron Inc. In the previous month, the station came in fourth with a 4.3 percent share of listeners.

Pat Welsh, senior vice president at Pacific Palisades media consultancy Pollack Media Group, said KOST benefited from high awareness of the format shift among its core listeners of women ages 25 to 54.

“They have a largely female audience and women drive the success of Christmas music,” he said.

For a decade, KOST was the only station in Los Angeles playing around-the-clock Christmas music for the season, but it now gets competition from KTWV-FM (94.7), better known as the Wave, a CBS station that programmed wall-to-wall seasonal music for its second year.

The Wave targets a similar demographic to KOST and got a boost of its own in the most recent ratings. It rose to 11th place with a 3.1 percent share of polled audiences, up from 15th place the prior month, when it had a 2.9 percent share.

KOST usually favors pop ballads while the Wave specializes in jazzier fare. Both stations played similar Christmas classics to get people in the spirit, such as Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” but the Wave threw in some jazz instrumentals in keeping with its identity, such as “Deck the Halls” from smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz.

“There is a lot of sharing of music,” Welsh said, “(but) they’re doing it slightly differently.”

Some listeners tuned in for nostalgic sounds while decorating their trees, but retailers also turned the dial to KOST hoping to get shoppers into the spending spirit. Advertisers pay a premium to reach such listeners as they’re doing their shopping, Welsh said.

“Radio is the last medium people are exposed to before making a purchase,” he said. “You may hear an ad as you’re on the way to the mall.”

The December ratings cover about two weeks of Christmas music, so Welsh said next month’s ratings – Dec. 6 through the new year – will also favor the stations and their Christmas music strategy.

Hollywood Comeback

Hollywood’s record take at the 2012 box office showed people will still put down their iPads long enough to see a quality movie.

Megahits including Walt Disney Co.’s “The Avengers” and Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” helped make the year a record-breaker for the North American box office. Ticket sales totaled $10.8 billion for the year. It was the largest number ever, up 5.8 percent compared with 2011, according to industry-tracking website Hollywood.com.

The windfall was partly due to higher-than-ever ticket prices but also a large increase in total tickets sold – 1.36 billion, up 5.6 percent compared with 2011.

It was a notable reversal after two years of contracting ticket sales, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division at Hollywood.com. He said it came down to having enough high-quality content worth paying for in theaters.

“Movies that are appealing have an emotional effect, regardless of ticket pricing,” he said.

The year did have its share of duds, such as Disney’s “John Carter” and Universal Pictures’ “Battleship.” But in contrast with 2011, when ticket sales hit a 15-year low, the successes outnumbered the money-losers.

Meanwhile, the advances in home entertainment and mobile technology that were blamed for cannibalizing theatergoing in years past are finding their place within the larger entertainment ecosystem, Dergarabedian said. He added that consumers continue to value the distinct experience of seeing movies on the big screen.

“People have figured out their habits and all these ways of getting content can coexist,” he said.

He noted social networks helped to complement studio marketing campaigns last year, as positive hype on Twitter and Facebook correlated in some cases with strong ticket sales.

Site Sale

L.A. digital media company Evolve Media Corp. sold one of its best known sites, SheKnows.com, to private-equity firm Great Hill Partners of Boston last month.

The women’s lifestyle site attracts millions of female visitors each month who browse for health, how-to and entertainment content. Contributors to the site have included celebrities Alanis Morissette and Cindy Crawford.

Evolve owns and operates or handles advertising services for a network of 55 websites spanning interests from parenting to the outdoors that operate in distinct male- and female-oriented publishing divisions.

Great Hill’s other investments include Spark Networks Inc. of Beverly Hills, parent of dating sites JDate and Christian Mingle.

Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at jpolakoff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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