- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas music is more popular than ever this year, according to trade publication Inside Radio.

A record 402 radio stations across the country began the week featuring all-Christmas formats, eclipsing the previous mark of 386 set in 2003.

Topping the holiday spirit list is the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area, with six separate stations playing purely seasonal fare. Next are Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, which both have five all-Christmas stations.

Washington-area listeners craving a fix of Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby have just one station to turn to: WASH-FM (97.1).

“We do it year after year because it’s successful,” said Bill Hess, program director for WASH, which is owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc.

This is the sixth year that the soft-rock station has flipped to continuous holiday music.

“It helps people get into the spirit,” said Mr. Hess, who noted that listeners e-mail the station as early as October to find out when it’s making the switch to the all-Christmas format (which it typically does one week before Thanksgiving).

But if getting into the spirit is a sure-fire ratings booster, why aren’t other D.C. stations jumping into the fray?

“We’re sort of the established [holiday music station],” Mr. Hess said. “I think it would be hard for anybody to kind of come in and take that image away from us.”

Public beans

Fans of the Public Broadcasting Service can now watch their PBS and drink it, too.

The Arlington-based media organization last week announced a partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters marketing “PBS Blend,” an organic coffee grown in Mexico.

“There’s a lot of nonprofits that are doing this kind of thing today,” said Andrea Downing, PBS vice president of home entertainment and partnerships. “We really think of this as a natural extension of our corporate sponsorship.”

PBS Blend will be available via the PBS and Green Mountain catalogs (10 ounces selling for $7.59) but as of this time, won’t be promoted on-air, Ms. Downing said.

“PBS already has a diversified portfolio of revenues,” she said, referring to DVD and video sales. “We need to try different things.”

When asked if for-profit deals could threaten the PBS image, Ms. Downing pointed out: “Everything we do goes back to programming and services.”

What does it mean?

WUSA-TV (Channel 9) is 2 weeks into its “My Spot Now” contest, which asks viewers to submit their own commercials for the local CBS affiliate.

The contest is part of a larger push by the station to promote its newly revamped brand, “9News Now”.

“We have a new brand that’s been on the air for six months, and this is one way for viewers to promote our news product,” said Stephen Houk, director of marketing for WUSA.

Contest participants are instructed to design a 30- or 60-second advertisement that explores “what Now means.” Among other entry requirements: The ad must have a positive message, and be appropriate for broadcast and free of insults to competitors; videos must use one of nine musical clips provided by the station and be submitted via the Web site.

The promotion is scheduled to end Dec. 31, but the date may be pushed back since no entries have been submitted yet, Mr. Houk said, conceding, “I’m asking a lot.”

• Channel Surfing runs on Wednesdays. Call 202/636-3139 or e-mail krowland@washing tontimes.com.

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