Ratings prove benefits of talk format

In June, Cogeco Diffusion announced that it would take three stations outside Montreal using the CKOI brand and turn them into talk stations similar to CHMP 98.5. Three months after the changes took effect, we have our first publicly-available ratings data for two of these stations.

On Thursday, BBM Canada released top-line radio ratings for diary markets (PDF). Diary markets are those that measure ratings through the use of diary surveys of listeners, asking them to fill out forms saying what they listened to. They exclude the five largest markets (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary), which have switched to the Portable People Meter, an electronic device that logs what people actually listen to. PPMs are more expensive, but more accurate.

The BBM diary survey data gives us snapshots of markets including Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Ottawa/Gatineau, the latter in both French and English. Cogeco has a talk station in each of these metro areas.

In Sherbrooke (CKOY-FM 107.7) and Gatineau (CKOF-FM 104.7), the stations both saw ratings boosts compared to this spring and a year ago.

Sherbrooke’s CKOY has an 8% market share, which is actually last-place among metered commercial stations in the market now that CJTS-FM has been shut down. But that number is up from 6.6% a year ago, 4.9% in fall 2010 and 5.2% in fall 2009.

Gatineau’s CKOF has a 7.6% market share, its highest since the spring of 2009, and up from 4.3% in fall 2011.

The third former CKOI station, Trois-Rivières’s CKOB-FM 106.9, is not part of the publicly-available data, so we don’t know how it did as far as ratings didn’t do as well, according to Astral’s BBM analysis. It lost ground overall, and particularly among young adults and women. But among adults 25-54 (the key demo), it’s about where it was a year ago – in last place.

In Quebec City, where Cogeco already had a talk station and the CKOI-branded station there was sold to an independent company when Cogeco bought Corus, the numbers also look good for talk radio. Controversial talk radio station CHOI-FM, which had been as far down as fifth and sixth place in the market in 2009, is now the top-rated station in the market with a 15.9% market share. Cogeco’s Quebec City talk/rock station CJMF-FM (FM93) is in third place, and its 14.7% market share is its best since at least 2009.

The Journal de Québec has some details of the Quebec City market.

Combined with data showing that CHMP in Montreal keeps getting higher ratings, it’s clear that there’s a pattern here, and the switch from music to talk has had some (at least modest) success in terms of ratings.

Radio-Canada was also crowing about these numbers. In Ottawa/Gatineau, Radio-Canada’s Première Chaîne had a reach exceeding 100,000 listeners for the first time ever. (Reach is defined as the number of people tuning into a station at least once a week.) It also breaks down some numbers for each of its shows.

Spin cycle

Lots of broadcasters issued their own statements on their ratings numbers, including for many small markets that BBM doesn’t give numbers for directly. Here’s a few I’ve found for Quebec’s diaried markets:

  • Astral gives an overall picture and rundown by market (with only the good news highlighted). Astral’s ratings analysis folks also have details in terms of age, gender and time of day for the Quebec, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay markets.
  • Cogeco Quebec: FM 93 might be losing to CHOI, but it does better in the city of Quebec itself, and FM 93 and sister station 102.9 are stronger as a pair than the pair of stations owned by RNC and Astral. (Wow, that’s some heavy spin)
  • NRJ Abitibi: A brief pointing out that they’re No. 1 in Rouyn-Noranda and Val d’Or
  • Radio-Canada Saguenay: Third place, but some interesting gains
  • Planète Dolbeau-Mistassini: We’re No. 1! Share this news on Facebook!
  • Planète Alma: More women are listening to us! Share this news on Facebook!

Other less biased analysis by market:

8 thoughts on “Ratings prove benefits of talk format

  1. Pat Obrien-Barn

    Honestly, I don’t buy the idea that ratings prove benefits of talk format for the local cogeco stations. Do we really history forget that easily?

    Let’s just take CHLT (Sherbrooke) has an example. The same could apply in Gatineau, Trois-Rivières and even Saguenay with the FM98.

    …-2004 : CHLT ALL TALK. Corus owned during the last few years. CKAC feed.

    2004-2006 : Very few local shows + 98,5 FM Feed.

    2006: Talk format, but the station switch to the FM dial. First on the 102,1. Bad reception.

    2008: An other switch. Station now on 107,7 fm.

    2009: Format changed. Souvenirs garantis (oldies). Exception: Paul Arcand feed broadcast on CHLT instead of the local show.

    2010: CHLT bought by Cogeco.

    2011: CHLT changed again format. Now CKOI brand and top40 format.

    2012: An other format change. Now, CKOI TALK. mix-format with talk and hits.

    Fall 2012: An other format switch. No more music. Full talk format.


    The station came back to the exact same format it abandonned 8 years ago. A whole lot of journalists, anchors and djs were fired in between though. Corus and Cogeco gambled with the life of many people and changed formats almost every year without even waiting for the station to built an audience. And ultimately, the station is back to its original format !

    So are we seeing a rating increase now? It is really to soon to conclude anything, but if it is the case, it will only be because there is finally some stability on this frequency for more than six months.

    NRJ and Rouge are super strong in Sherbrooke and Gatineau. Only a revolutionary format could win over these two. A whole lot of things were tested (Grock new rock&talk, Génération rock 104,5 classic rock, CKOI talk, CKOI hits, oldies,…). Not sure what is left in terms of format to test. BOB FM? A more adventurous news talk format than 107,7 ? All news?

  2. Alex H

    I am not a scientist, and I don’t play one on TV… but I have a theory.

    The rise of MP3 players, downloads, pirated music, and complete and total access to everything musical is making music radio stations almost redundant. People can do a better job of picking their own music mix on their MP3 player than any radio station can do for them.

    However, talk radio cannot be replaced by a download or a pirated file. Quite simply, it’s always new, always current, and always original, even when they are talking about the same subject for days at a time. It also tends to touch people in a more direct manner, it interacts with them, and makes them part of the discussion.

    It can’t be replicated on your MP3 player.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The rise of MP3 players, downloads, pirated music, and complete and total access to everything musical is making music radio stations almost redundant.

      While music players are a threat to music radio stations, let’s not exaggerate here. Music radio stations are still getting big ratings.

      I think it’s more an issue of competition. These markets all have multiple music stations, but fewer talk stations. So switching to a talk format means grabbing a bigger slice of a smaller pie.

      1. mike from montreal

        Do you know how much it cost for a radio station one hour of music vs one hour of talk show? What is more expensive?

        1. mike from montreal

          Another thing.
          Commercial radio stations are looking for people middle age and up. Is about money…High income. The young generation, 18-30, usually has low income or nothing to spend.

          1. Fagstein Post author

            Commercial radio stations are looking for people middle age and up. Is about money…High income.

            Actually, the key demographic is adults 25-54. That gets some middle-age people, but mainly younger adults who have disposable income or are building families.

        2. Fagstein Post author

          Do you know how much it cost for a radio station one hour of music vs one hour of talk show? What is more expensive?

          That’s too vague a question to really answer. A talk show could be run by one person, in which case it’s really cheap, but it’s probably not really interesting. In general, talk is more expensive because it requires more people. But it really depends.

  3. Sheldon

    I wonder if some of the spike in talk show listeners may be attributed to the provincial election & subsequent change of government.


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