Bell Media kills Bob FM in Ottawa, turns it into country station

Bob FM OttawaIt’s been almost eight months since the last time an Ottawa radio station suddenly abandoned its format and pissed off its listeners, so I guess it was time to do it again.

On Monday evening, Bell Media, owner of CKKL-FM (Bob FM) announced via the station’s website and Facebook page that the station is no more.

“Market conditions have changed, and it’s time for us to pursue a new opportunity,” reads the vague message, which suggests not so much a shutdown but a rebrand and format change.

Brief announcements on the station that said “something new is coming” confirmed this.

Bob FM is an “adult hits” format, meaning songs your parents remember (or you remember if you’re a parent yourself).

newcountry94On Wednesday morning, a press release announced that the new station, to be launched today, will be called New Country 94, and will be a country music station. (Its webiste is newcountry94.com, registered on Oct. 9.)

The new format puts it up against Rogers station New Country 101.1 FM (CKBY-FM) in Smiths Falls, whose 100kW signal reaches Ottawa but also places like Renfrew and Brockville.

Five on-air staff let go

The change means that five on-air personalities have lost their jobs, according to The Canadian Press. But they will be replaced with new talent.

Among those laid off is John Mielke, the owner of Milkman Unlimited, which posts job opportunities at radio stations in Canada. He posted an update to that website about his own job cut.

The Ottawa Citizen has some online reaction from fans about the disappearance of Bob FM. They also have this story looking into the business of the Ottawa radio market and this timeline of major changes at local stations.

Ratings information from Numeris this spring showed the station with a 2.6% share, or about the middle of the pack for English-language music stations. But the share was in decline, which might have convinced management that a change in format was the way to go.

That same data showed Country 101 having a 6.1% share in the Ottawa market.

17 thoughts on “Bell Media kills Bob FM in Ottawa, turns it into country station

  1. Dilbert

    Out of the corpse of Bob comes… well…

    Virgin would be an obvious choice, but might not be the best choice. In a market that has 30+ competitors, it’s pretty hard not to end up competing with someone. The question would be better put “where does Bell want to compete?” or perhaps “Where does Bell not already have a station?”.

    Two answers show up: Modern Rock (thing Toronto’s Edge 102 style) or… wait for it… TALK radio, in turn with something like 98.5 in Montreal. The numbers seem to suggest there is something there, With CBC Radio 1 as the biggest station in town, and company owned AM station CFRA not far behind, there is some pretty good potential to end up somewhere between, and a talker like 98.5 could be the right place to land.

    Talk would likely get better ratings, but might take away from their existing properties. So it’s much more likely you will see formats that compete with either Chez106 or Hot 89.9, both are ratings winnters in the marketplace and clearly have a big slice of the pie that can be taken.

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  2. Brett Morris

    Don’t think it would be a station to compete with Hot 89.9 as there is Kiss 105.3 and Jump 106.9 which all play Hit Music. There would be to many CHR radio stations.

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  3. Mimo

    I see rock coming back. We already have live 88.5 which sounds as much like the edge as the edge does. Talk won’t happen as it’s a “specialty format” as far as FM is concerned and doesn’t really do well on FM in Canada. Anything else would also be a specialty format and one I don’t think Bell would be willing to try, (jazz or classical for example). Country is a possibility, as country 101.1 does incredibly well with an anemic signal that only covers 40% of the market. It doesn’t hit downtown so there’s no building penetration at all for 101.1 If I were to put money on a new format, it would be rock or country.

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  4. Eric Jon Magnuson

    I haven’t been able to listen, but the station is supposedly announcing a new format tomorrow (Wednesday) morning; Ottawa Start reported today that the new format “will target women 18-34”.

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  5. Mimo

    There was a promo that ran this afternoon saying a new station starts tomorrow followed by the famous bear roar, then I Wanna Rock, then Rock you..repeat. The bear is back tomorrow.

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  6. Lynn

    If it means a country station with no Joel Lamoreux, bring it on. After 25 years of listening to CKBY, I had to go buy Sirius when he took over the morning show.

    Really sad to see Bob go, they had the best on air personalities.

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  7. Mimo

    I was wrong. I was convinced by a promo that was aired just for fun. I spoke late last night with the guy who ran it, saying they were having a little fun and said he was the most loved and hated man in Ottawa.
    One more station removed from the presets…the FM presets are getting fewer and fewer by the day.

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  8. Dilbert

    Wow… talk about a weird move.

    CKBY has a very long and twisted history as a country music station in Ottawa area, although now currently a “powerhouse” level station operating out of Smith’s Falls. CKBY is pretty much it for country format, their 6.1% share in Ottawa potentially is the entire market for Country in that region right there.

    New Country is a variation on a theme, essentially country music without any of the back catalog. Aimed at a slightly younger audience, it also looks to capitalize on the people drawn in by crossover acts (for the moment, think Taylor Swift). It’s also on a more local level a place where failed and slightly aging rock musicians go when they can’t sell themselves as a “fresh young” rock talent anymore.

    I am really not following the logic here. Bob was a 2.6% market share station. Country overall in the market only shows about 6%, and CKBY has that sewn up with 40 years of brand loyalty. The new station would have to take nearly half of that market just to get back to where it was, which would be a major accomplishment.

    Good luck to them, it seems like a pretty random act from here.

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  9. Ted Bird

    With properly applied marketing and promotional resources, modern country radio in a market like Ottawa is a success story waiting to happen.

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  10. Mimo

    We’re all forgetting just how bad the 101.1 signal really is in the city. It’s great if you live in Barrhaven, Kanata and Nepean. Get into centretown, downtown, Gloucester, or Orleans, or any where east of downtown, it’s either not there at all or very weak and noisy. Only top of the line FM receivers can get a decent signal in those areas…and even top of the line receivers won’t hear anything inside any of the downtown condos or office buildings. Imagine just how bad the average consumer grade boombox or clock radio is…and there is no country radio in Ottawa as far as those who live in the affected areas and have only those types of radios are. Even car radios don’t receive the signal well in about 60% of the city. CKBY has done a fantastic job with such a bad signal, but when the format moved from 105.3 years ago, many complained they could no longer hear their favourite music…..and now that the dial is even more saturated, and with CJWL’s power increase from a downtown transmitter, the entire middle section of the FM dial is a complete mess if your radio is sensitive to any overload.

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  11. Diane

    What a shock this morning when I turned on the radio an heard country music. I thought for sure I had moved the dial by mistake until I Googled and read what happened. Even if I have to admit that lately I had been thinking how the morning programming (before 9 am) was getting redundant (the left-over whatever lunch and ”things we got run” that have been running for way too long) but I also felt like the hosts were more or less interested… Anyways, it’s still to see Bob go. I loved listening when Sandy Sharky and the others were around in the morning… They used to make me laugh oh so very much…. very natural talent she and the others had at the time… Good luck to you all though :(

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    1. Neil K.

      Diane,

      Sandy is now on weekend afternoons on boom 99.7. That’s the station where Pete Marier is now doing mornings. They also play music from the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

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  12. Ben

    Sorry to say but your ‘New Country’ music station is nothing more than Pop/Rock with a twang, won’t last.
    GOOD LUCK

    Reply

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