December 28, 2004

"WPIX fires up ratings as Yule Log rules"
Holiday tradition gets a warm reception

By John Dempsey

If any further proof is needed that TV watching is not foremost on people's minds during Christmas Day, WPIX New York harvested more viewers than any other local TV station from 8 a.m. to noon by filling its screen with a film showing logs burning in a fireplace.

The Yule Log telecast featuring a soundtrack of Christmas carols has become an annual tradition on WPIX. It chalked up an average 275,156 total viewers for the four hours. Second-place finisher WNBC managed only 255,502 viewers, on average, for the 8-to-noon timeslot.

WPIX wangled three corporate underwriters to bankroll the Yule Log: Samsung, Macy's and DaimlerChrysler. The only messages these sponsors got for their money were brought-to-you-by announcements at the beginning and end of the four hours; WPIX ruled out any interruption of the telecast for hard-sell 30-second spots.

The station took pains to point out that alter kockers were not the only the audience for the Yule Log. The crackling wood finished first among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

WPIX originated the Yule Log back in 1966, a creation of the then general manager Fred Thrower. The fireplace came courtesy of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor of New York City.

After 23 years, the station scrapped the Yule Log telecast in 1989. But following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, WPIX brought the Yule Log back in time for Christmas of 2001, digitally remastering the film. Last year, the station also filmed it in high definition.