Radio ratings: Virgin running out of ways to claim it’s beating The Beat

Numeris released its quarterly ratings report this week for Montreal and other metered markets. The Montreal top-line results show once again a significant margin between 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) and Virgin Radio 95.9 (CJFM-FM).

Here they are translated into English. Audience shares among Montreal anglophones (all ages) from Aug. 29 to Nov. 27, 2016 (with their average-minute audience for a 24-hour day):

  • CJAD 800: 29.6% (17,100)
  • The Beat 92.5: 17.4% (10,000)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 14.9% (8,600)
  • CHOM 97.7: 10.2% (5,900)
  • CBC Radio One: 6.4% (3,700)
  • TSN Radio 690: 3.7% (2,100)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 2.2% (1,300)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.0% (1,100)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1.8% (1,000)

Other measured stations had shares under 1%.

Once again, among overall anglophone audiences, CJAD is the clear winner with a 29.6% share, tied with last winter as its highest share in the past five years. The Beat clearly beats Virgin, up by two and a half points. It’s also ahead in the adults 25-54 demographic, which Virgin had a bit of an edge in historically. And even when counting in francophone audiences, The Beat is still ahead.

CHOM, meanwhile, had its worst book in the past half-decade, dropping more than two points.

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones). Data by Numeris

Radio ratings share (Montreal anglophones, ages 2+). Data by Numeris. Click for larger version.

But it would be irresponsible to make sweeping conclusions based on one ratings report. Instead, it makes more sense to look at long-term trends. And here’s what we see from that:

  • CJAD is doing well, despite everyone’s opinions (usually negative here) about its programming. Since 2014, it has climbed into the 25-30% range, with noticeable dips in the summer, suggesting Montrealers are tuning in when there’s news. No individual programming change would explain this, though 2013 is when there was the last major reshuffling, getting rid of Ric Peterson.
  • The Beat is winning the battle with Virgin. It took about two years after Q92 relaunched itself as The Beat for there to be real traction in the ratings, and a noticeable drop in Virgin’s share around 2013 led to The Beat taking the lead. Since the beginning of 2014, The Beat has led among anglo listeners, though the adults 25-54 demo has gone back and forth a bit.

CHOM’s bad book could easily be an outlier, so we’ll have to see.

As for TSN 690, a lot of people seem to be very concerned about their ratings (and, like with CJAD, very eager to blame problems on a particular on-air personality), but it’s about the same place it always is. The latest rating is slightly below where it was a year ago, and slightly above where it was two years ago at the same time of the season.

Naturally, every station tried to spin the results to make themselves look good:

  • CJAD sent out a press release noting their #1 status and adding that it is the best-rated news-talk radio station in Canada in terms of audience share in its central market. (The fact that Montreal has a limited number of English stations is a big factor in that, of course.) And it singled out hosts Andrew Carter (most listened-to radio show in the market), Aaron Rand (most popular afternoon show) and Ken Connors (a 52% share on weekend mornings).
  • The Beat also sent out a press release, staking claim to the title of highest-rated music station in the market, as well as the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics that advertisers love, and highlighting its high ratings during the 9-to-5 workday, which continues to be its strength.
  • Virgin Radio didn’t send out a press release, though it did post messages on social media noting some ratings wins. It calls Freeway and Natasha “Montreal’s #1 most listened to morning show”, but only in the fine print do you realize they restricted the audience to adults 18-49. Another image pointed to the station having “more than 2 million listeners a week”, which is true, but that counts everyone who tuned in for even one minute during that week. It doesn’t measure how long or often people listen to the station, and The Beat has the same reach.

Francophone market

Among Montreal francophones (all ages):

  • 98.5 FM: 19.8% (36,600)
  • Rythme FM 105.7: 18.5% (34,300)
  • ICI Première: 11.8% (21,900)
  • Rouge FM 107.3: 9.3% (17,300)
  • CKOI 96.9: 9.1% (16,900)
  • Virgin Radio 96: 5.8% (10,700)
  • The Beat 92.5: 5.6% (10,300)
  • Énergie 94.3: 5.4% (10,000)
  • CHOM 97.7: 4.7% (8,700)
  • ICI Musique: 2.5% (4,600)
  • Radio Classique 99.5: 2.3% (4,300)
  • 91.9 Sports: 1.4% (2,600)

Once again, news-talker 98.5 FM is the leader among all audiences, though Rythme FM declared victory in the adults 25-54 group.

Radio-Canada bounced back big time from a bad book in the summer, taking third spot overall. CKOI’s rating is also noteworthy. After being stuck with shares around 6%, it’s now several points up on that. Meanwhile, Énergie, whose lineup includes Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Éric Salvail, gets smaller audiences overall than Virgin and The Beat.

Self-congratulatory statements from:

  • 98.5FM, which says it’s the most listened-to station in all of Canada (by total average-minute audience, apparently)
  • Radio-Canada, which notes a 30% year-over-year increase (good news after a pretty bad report in the summer ratings).
  • Bell Media, which highlights the success of Énergie’s afternoon network show Éric est les fantastiques. Because it’s carried on multiple stations, it gets a large audience.

Also roundups from La PresseInfoPresse and ActusMédias.

CHRF 980 AM, which seems to have an actual programming strategy now, had its best ratings ever. Except it only started reporting ratings in the past year, and its share is 0.3% among francophones and 0.4% among anglophones, for about 800 average-minute listeners total.

New on the ratings chart is CIBL-FM 101.5, the community station whose studios are at the corner of St-Laurent Blvd. and Ste-Catherine St. The station unsurprisingly scored zeros for anglophones, and starts on the francophone chart as a 0.1% share, 300 average listeners and an average daily reach of 16,800. The only station with a worse rating among francophones is TSN 690. It’s certainly not a win for them, but the ratings book should give them a lot of information about their audience that they didn’t have before.

15 thoughts on “Radio ratings: Virgin running out of ways to claim it’s beating The Beat

    1. Media Man

      My guess and astute speculation would be Mitch Melnick, most or many observers think he’s actually the defacto program director.

      1. Graham

        might explain why Billybob Productions/Exposnation has gotten so much airtime. Usually conflicts of interests get people fired

  1. Mario D.

    For argument sake let s say that CHOM,CJAD and TSN have their own specific markets in the anglo part of the radio audience. Their sounds and contents are so specialized that they cannot be compared to their french equivalent . Actually to be fair TSN is the only one worth comparing with 91.9 being both Mtl canadiens radios…

    As for Virgin radio it s a totally different ball game. They have the exact same sound as the Beat,CKOI,Energie, Rythme-fm and radio rock detente . Thee only way they can be told appart is if they do not play the same song at the same time…So for one to be first in the ratings does not mean anything other than it s risk free radio , fast and simple recipe, pour in mug add water shake well and consume.

    When i see a 30 % increase i tend to think that 30 % of not much is not much also…To have that big of an increase actually confirms that you did not have much to start with. Radio-Canada with those results are starting to get in the 98.5 territory but at what price ? They sound much more commercial than before with hip jingles and segways ,content is still strong but one has to wonder and worry about where it is heading …

  2. dilbert

    Any single ratings book is always a crap shoot. You never know if the sample group leans a little more one way or the other. But the bigger overall trends are perhaps more interesting.

    Certainly after getting rid of Ric Petersen, CJAD appears to have been doing better. I think that Aaron Rand pulls some really good numbers in his time slot, and (by default) Andrew Carter does as well (I think a robot / chatbot could get about the same in this non competing market space). Adding Ken Conners on the weekend certain seems to have picked up those ratings, which could certainly tilt the overall a bit.

    That said, it’s always a bit weird to see a market leader making serious changes in their programming – until you realize that those times slots are where ‘AD does the worst. The drop off from one drive time to the other is pretty big, and may not be all that easily fixed. Clearly 20 years of Tommy hasn’t really changed that much, so perhaps a change is good.

    For CHOM, I think it is a sort of solitary station in the market. It’s the only anglo rock station that is in the book, so there is absolutely nothing to compare it to. Drilling down in the numbers will likely show some trends, but overall, their number is sort of in space. I also think it’s in no small part relative to both the “at the moment” popularity of rock music versus pop, as well as the overall audience (which appears to be aging). Except for two up books (where they seemed to take from AD and Beat), there have been slowly but surely trending down over time.

    What the book shows, more than anything, is that NET NET. all in, everything figured out, Bell lost a little bit of market to the Beat. It also seems to indicate that the true market for Sports Radio is pretty small, If TSN was not owned by Bell, it’s very likely they would have moved at least part of their day towards CJAD’s marketplace, considering that there is a huge number of listeners for that stuff. Without competition, you would likely have guys like Ric Petersen on the air as competition for CJAD. Sadly, the CRTC didn’t seem to think that competition in any manner is very good, and as such, let Bell buy the market. It’s pretty sad.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for this insightful post. I switch around while in the car and listen to all the radio stations. They all got somethin’ as far as I am concerned. What about the morning shows and 6pm newscasts in anglo markets? Please post those Mr Fagstein.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      What about the morning shows and 6pm newscasts in anglo markets?

      Numeris doesn’t release that data directly, so it takes a bit more digging, but CTV definitely owns the 6pm hour compared to its competitors.

  4. Media Man

    Well, two things seem increasingly clear here in the Anglo market.
    There’s some competition in the FM music market with three stations owned by two companies, so nobody will ever CJAD numbers.

    But the two things :

    1– CJAD is a monopoly position and clearly people want choice and what seems judging by the impending launch of 940 hopefully to be followed by AM 600 will give 800 a much needed run for its money and breath of fresh air.

    2– also increasingly clear that The Beat has been slowly taking over from Virgin and probably for a few glaring reasons.
    More or better variety and not having to listen to Bieber that often.
    The other reasons probably more behind the scenes, seeing more announcers going from Bell Media going to The Beat than the other way around.
    Which brings up the next point. Could Mark Bergman’s PD duties be in jeopardy? Is he the problem there at Virgin ? Or is he just a victim of being at the mercy of his corporate lords in Toronto?
    Doing double duty with his drive show, could they be now taking their toll.
    To be continued…..

    1. Brett

      It will be interesting to see how CJAD does once 600am launches.

      I don’t even bother with The Beat or Virgin because so much of their playlist is similar. I tend to go to CBC Radio Two for drive times. Much better music.

      If virgin added something that the Beat doesn’t play then maybe ratings would go up. I’m surprised they have added in hip hop considering how much Montreal loves hip hop.

  5. Sam Santos

    CHOM.should change format and become similar to Rebel 101 Ottawa. They get rid of classic rock and play Slipknot, Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, Korn, Seether and Alterbridge. 97.7 needs to play more active modern rock and sound heavier. They should rebrand to The Bear to get ratings.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      CHOM.should change format and become similar to Rebel 101 Ottawa.

      The Rebel format is too young on that station to make any ratings-based conclusions. Why do you think that would result in a higher audience share here?

    2. Brett

      In a market that likes classic rock and new rock, going similar to the rebel may or may not work.

      Maybe CHOM would do better with Adult album alternative like 104.7 The Point in Burlington VT. They do a better balance of new and classic rock plus formats related to rock.

  6. Richard G

    What about the American stations which target Montreal listeners . Where do they fit in ? I usually listen to 99.9 The Buzz for alternative music while my son listens to 94.7 Hits FM and Wild Country 96.5 . Regardless I’ll keep listening but wonder what share of the market they have ?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      What about the American stations which target Montreal listeners . Where do they fit in ?

      They, like most community, campus and ethnic stations, don’t subscribe to Numeris and so are not measured.


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