Category Archives: Radio

Bell moves Énergie shows to Rouge FM

Here’s a head-scratcher. Bell Media has announced that Éric Salvail, Dominic Arpin, Mélanie Maynard and Patrick Langlois are moving from Énergie 94.3 to Rouge FM 107.3 starting Aug. 14.

Moving an entire show (Salvail is taking his contributors with him) from one station to another is very unusual. Moving an entire lineup, which also includes the morning show, is downright bizarre.

Rouge is keeping mid-day hosts Julie Boulanger and Eric Nolin, and Pierre-Marc Babin will host the evening show, but the rest of its weekday lineup is being replaced. Patricia Paquin and Benoît Gagnon will also remain with the station, on weekends.

Rouge FM has been struggling in the ratings recently, losing ground to adult contemporary competitor Rythme FM, owned by Cogeco. Moving more popular (and more well-known) hosts to Rouge makes sense for that station, especially if those hosts appeal more to women than men.

But the bigger question is what happens to Énergie.

UPDATE (June 14): We have a bit of an idea what’s happening to Énergie now. Though there was a rumour of Les Grandes Gueules being reunited on the station, it’s actually only half that: José Gaudet will co-host the afternoon show with Richard Turcotte and Marie-Christine Proulx, in a show that will be broadcast on all Énergie stations except Quebec City. Jonathan Roberge, who co-hosted the morning show with Arpin and Maynard, will remain on Énergie in the mornings, with more details to be announced later.

It’s definitely going to be big changes for both stations, and the mix of talk and music might still change, but the idea that 94.3 FM in Montreal will go news-talk like 98.5 is pretty dead, at least for now.

Bell has Énergie and Rouge FM stations in Montreal, Quebec City, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Drummondville and Rimouski. It has Énergie stations Rouyn and Val-d’Or in western Quebec, and a Rouge FM station in Amqui, in the Gaspé peninsula.

It’s official: Canadiens regional games move to TSN

Two weeks after rumours began spreading, TSN and the Canadiens have confirmed that the Bell-owned broadcaster has picked up the team’s regional English-language television rights from Sportsnet as of the 2017-18 season.

The team has also renewed its English-language radio deal with TSN 690. According to the station, that deal is for five years.

The press releases about TSN’s deal are intentionally vague on details. They speak of “a slate” of games, so it’s unclear if it will be broadcasting all the games it’s entitled to or if, like in the days of the “TSN Habs” channel, it will only broadcast a selection. On one hand, every other Canadian team has all 82 games a year broadcast in English, and the Sportsnet/NHL deal caused TSN to invest far more in regional broadcast rights. On the other hand, Canadiens games are also broadcast on RDS, so not every game needs to be broadcast in English.

The press releases also don’t specify how long the TV deal is for. I’ve asked TSN for specifics and will update if I hear back.

Also unanswered so far is what channel the games will air on. TSN5 is used by the Ottawa Senators, so some sort of overflow channel will need to be used when both the Senators and Canadiens are playing, at the very least. That, and on-air hirings, will be answered closer to the start of the season.

The deal will give TSN TV rights to all Canadiens preseason games, and likely up to 60 of the team’s regular-season games, mostly those that don’t air Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday nights. Saturday night games, special games like outdoor games, and all playoff games stay with Sportsnet.

The deal will also mean far fewer nationally-broadcast Habs games, limited to only Sportsnet’s national broadcast windows. All TSN Habs games will be blacked out outside the Canadiens broadcast region.

The power struggle tearing Radio Centre-Ville apart

A protest outside Radio Centre-Ville’s office on March 29.

Montreal’s only community ethnic radio station is in crisis. It started as a financial one, without a major source of revenue to pay expenses. But since last fall it has turned into a legal one as well, with two stubborn sides fighting it out. And each side is willing to financially bankroll their legal battle, even though that money would be put to far better use rescuing the station directly, because they’re convinced that their victory is the only way they can truly save the station.

And neither side is willing to negotiate or compromise.

The issue has been getting some media attention, with articles in Métro and Le Devoir. I wrote about it as well for the Montreal Gazette. Here, I’ll lay out the issues in more detail, based on interviews with both sides.

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Radio ratings: Radio-Canada and FM93 tie for top in Quebec City

There are a couple of stories that can come out of the Quebec City page of the latest Numeris radio diary report released Thursday: One, that CHOI Radio X is no longer the powerhouse it once was (in large part because other stations in the market have copied its populist talk format), and two, that despite the “radio poubelle” reputation of the city’s stations, Radio-Canada’s ICI Première station is doing quite well.

Here’s how it breaks down (numbers are for 12+ listeners, 5am-1am for the whole week, Feb. 27 to April 23, 2017):

Callsign Frequency Brand Owner Listening share Central market reach
CJMF-FM 93.3 FM93 Cogeco Media 15.7% 183,100
CBV-FM 106.3 ICI Première CBC 15.6% 154,600
CHOI-FM 98.1 Radio X RNC Media 12.7% 140,700
CITF-FM 107.5 Rouge Bell Media 10.1% 132,400
CHIK-FM 98.9 Énergie Bell Media 8.0% 132,500
CJEC-FM 91.9 WKND Leclerc 7.9% 111,100
CFEL-FM 102.1 BLVD Leclerc 6.9% 120,500
CFOM-FM 102.9 M Cogeco Media 6.8% 121,700
CJSQ-FM 92.7 Radio Classique Radio Classique 5.1% 51,900
CHXX-FM 100.9 Pop RNC Media 2.8% 44,500
CBVX-FM 95.3 ICI Musique CBC 2.3% 41,400
CBVE-FM 104.7 Radio One CBC 0.5% 10,100

As you can see, ICI Première is in a statistical tie with FM93 in terms of audience in all age groups (among advertiser-friendly demographics it’s another matter). Radio X is in third place, followed by the two Bell Media stations, and the two Leclerc Communication stations behind that.

CHXX’s change from rock-based Radio X2 to pop-based Pop has resulted in a drop in market share, but the company is optimistic it can rebound.

Le Journal de Québec breaks down the ratings for specific shows in various time slots. Le Soleil gets reaction from Radio X, which notes it does well among 25-54s, though some of their on-air personalities aren’t so diplomatic, taking shots at the competition.

Le Journal also notes that a host at Énergie wants Gilles Parent of FM93 to give him his house as promised, and Parent in turn took a swipe at BLVD’s Nathalie Normandeau. Other on-air statements are compiled here.

Here are what Quebec’s other markets look like. (Montreal is a metered market, and its next quarterly report is June 7.)

Sherbrooke

Callsign Frequency Brand Owner Listening share Central market reach
CIMO-FM 106.9 Énergie Bell Media 21.1% 70,900
CITE-FM-1/2 102.7/94.5 Rouge FM Bell Media 20.3% 61,000
CBF-FM-10 101.1 ICI Première CBC 13.0% 42,600
CKOY-FM 107.7 107,7fm Cogeco 10.6% 33,200
CFGE-FM 93.7 Rythme FM Cogeco 8.2% 26,100
CBFX-FM-2 90.7 ICI Musique CBC 4.3% 12,700

Bell owns the Sherbrooke market pretty well, with the top two stations representing more than 40% listening share. Cogeco’s two stations combined have half that. La Tribune notes there’s a decrease in overall listening over last year.

Trois-Rivières

Callsign Frequency Brand Owner Listening share Central market reach
CIGB-FM 102.3 Énergie Bell 16.4% 45,100
CHEY-FM 94.7 Rouge FM Bell 13.8% 29,400
CJEB-FM 100.1 Rythme FM Cogeco 12.8% 25,300
CBF-FM-8 96.5 ICI Première CBC 11.1% 20,600
CKOB-FM 106.9 106,9fm Cogeco 9.2 16,800
CKBN-FM 90.5 FM 90,5 Community 6.5% 10,100
CBFX-FM-1 104.3 ICI Musique CBC 3.8% 8,100

Bell also tops in Trois-Rivières, though the lead is not as large.

Saguenay

Callsign Frequency Brand Owner Listening share Central market reach
CKYK-FM 95.7 Radio X RNC Media 21.2% 43,800
CFIX-FM 96.9 Rouge FM Bell 20.1% 50,300
CJAB-FM 94.5 Énergie Bell 17.3% 49,100
CBJ-FM 93.7 ICI Première CBC 10.2% 22,700
CILM-FM 98.3 Rythme FM Attraction 8.1% 18,800
CBJX-FM 100.9 ICI Musique CBC 5.0% 7,000

Radio X regains the lead in the heartland, after being in third a year ago. The Bell stations are also doing well there.

Ottawa-Gatineau (francophone)

Callsign Frequency Brand Owner Listening share Central market reach
CIMF-FM 94.9 Rouge FM Bell 16.5 79,200
CBOF-FM 90.7 ICI Première CBC 13.1% 70,000
CKTF-FM 104.1 Énergie Bell 11.7% 77,000
CKOF-FM 104.7 104,7fm Cogeco 10.0% 51,400
CIHT-FM 89.9 Hot 89.9 Newcap 5.9% 53,400
CFTX-FM 96.5 Pop 96,5 RNC Media 4.3% 27,300
CHLX-FM 97.1 Wow 97,1 RNC Media 4.2% 26,100
CBOX-FM 102.5 ICI Musique CBC 3.8% 22,200

Little change here over last year: Bell also has the two top private stations for francophone listeners in the national capital, while RNC Media’s new single-syllable music stations are more than a point behind the anglophone music station. (I’ve left out the remaining anglo stations.) Nevertheless, Le Droit notes that CFTX-FM’s change from Capitale Rock to Pop has meant a huge increase in ratings, from a 0.5% market share in September.

Bell Media radio rehires The Beat’s program director

Since 92.5 FM in Montreal became The Beat in 2011, the station has made much of its staff lineup by poaching personalities from direct competitor Virgin Radio. Cat Spencer, Vinny Barrucco and Nat Lauzon were hired directly from Virgin, and Nikki Balch and Rob Kemp also previously worked at 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (for Virgin and CHOM, respectively).

With The Beat’s ratings being solidly ahead of Virgin for what seems to be a sustainable period, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bell Media hit back.

Martin Tremblay (via Facebook)

This week we learned that it has poached from the top, hiring Martin Tremblay to lead the Énergie, Rouge FM and Virgin Radio Montreal stations. Tremblay was hired as interim program director at The Beat a year ago. Before that, he spent six years in what is basically the same job he’s now going back to, leading the Montreal French music stations and Virgin at Astral and then Bell Media.

His CV also includes plenty of work for radio stations as part of his consulting company Oumf! Communications. They include:

  • Helping RNC Media create a Rythme FM affiliate in Gatineau, which lasted two and a half years until RNC decided to rebrand it as WOW FM.
  • Helping Attraction Radio turn CKRS-FM in Saguenay into another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC Media turn CHOA-FM in Abitibi into yet another Rythme FM affiliate.
  • Helping RNC transforming its struggling CKLX-FM into 91.9 Sports in Montreal, and later turning Capitale Rock 96.5 in Gatineau into a partial affiliate of it. While 91.9 Sports is going strong and RNC finally seems happy with that format, the Gatineau station has dropped sports programming and is now Pop 96.5.
  • Launching Groupe Puissance Média, an ad sales group that works with both RNC Media and Cogeco Media TV and radio outlets in the Outaouais region.
  • Work for Rogers’s Kiss 105.3 in Ottawa.

Tremblay starts his new job Aug. 7. Like the on-air personalities who made the jump, he’s bound by the terms of a non-compete clause in his contract that prevents him from working for Bell Media right away. “So enjoying my free time,” he tells me.

I asked Bell Media how this affects existing management at these stations. Mark Bergman is the current program director at VIrgin Radio. Will his role change?

“We have no comments to make at this time,” was the response from Bell Media communications director Simon Céré. I also asked Bergman and Martin Spalding, who heads local TV and radio in Quebec, for comment, and will update this if I hear back.

Chris Bury takes over PD role at CHOM

Chris Bury, program director of CJAD, TSN 690 and now CHOM 97.7

Meanwhile, the other three radio stations at Bell Media in Montreal will all come under the control of Chris Bury, currently the PD for CJAD and TSN 690.

“As CHOM’s Assistant Program Director and Music Director, Picard will work directly with Chris,” notes a memo to staff.

Bury’s expanded duties means that more will be delegated to CJAD/TSN 690 Assistant Program Director Mathew Wood, who takes on a larger role at TSN.

“Mathew will now handle day-to-day responsibilities at TSN 690 and Picard will continue to do that for CHOM,” Bury explains to me by email. “I’ll be involved in brainstorming, strategy, long-term planning, major decisions etc.”

I asked Bury if we should expect any changes at CHOM with this announcement. “It’s too early to get specific but, for me, the general goal is always the same: produce the most compelling content possible — as consistently as you can,” he responded. “That can mean introducing new segments or features or executing the ones we have a little more effectively.”

“I’ll add that… It’s an honour to be working on CHOM, in any way. The station carries a powerful legacy in Montreal. And the team at CHOM are as passionate about their station as anyone else. I’m excited to get going and to help however I can. And, although I do have some music programming experience, there will certainly be a learning curve. It’ll be a fun challenge.”

These management changes took effect immediately when they were announced to staff earlier this week. CHOM has been without a program director since the death of André Lallier in 2015.

Meanwhile, at The Beat, there are decisions to make. The station is led by general manager Luc Tremblay, who was also hired as head of digital strategy at Cogeco Media last June.

 

CRTC radio licence renewal applications: Radio Ville-Marie has several compliance issues

There was a dump of licence renewal applications posted online March 1, March 6 and March 30 for radio stations. Most were found to be compliant with their licence conditions, while some had issues. Here are stations up for renewal in Montreal and surrounding markets. For those still open for comment, you can find their applications here.

CIRA-FM 91.3 Montreal (Radio Ville-Marie) plus retransmitters in Trois-Rivières, Victoriaville and Rimouski: Several compliance issues — Financial statements using the calendar year instead of the broadcast year, financial statements reported late, annual report missing (blamed on a move and the absence of their director of finance), noisy recordings (which the station blamed on a power failure and faulty equipment), failure to properly categorize songs (which they say they actually did), failure to respond to requests for information (lost in the shuffle of other demands, they say),

One other thing they’re accused of is being “alarmist” in fundraising requests. According to CRTC policy, it is considered unethical for solicitation announcements to be unduly coercive or to suggest that a show or station would disappear from the air if enough money wasn’t received. Radio Ville-Marie (like just about every non-profit on the planet) did exactly that, saying on air that “without your financial support, we can’t continue our mission”, which sounds accurate but is apparently against the rules.

For most of the compliance issues, the station gave identical answers on how they would be solved: the creation of a committee to ensure compliance. Asked about the possibility of a short-term licence renewal or other sanctions, the station downplayed the problems as “administrative” and not affecting programming or their mission. This is the kind of statement that will likely irk people at the commission.

CKIN-FM 106.3 Montreal: Despite the station’s troubled compliance history, and controversy about its very Arabic-centric programming schedule, the commission found only one issue in reviewing compliance for its first renewal under new owner Neeti P. Ray: A programming log failed to list the start times of each song broadcast. But even then, Ray notes that the regulations don’t require listing start times, but merely listing the songs played in order. Nevertheless, Ray responded with a revised list that included exact start times for each song played on air. The commission appears satisfied with this response and believes the station is in compliance with its licence conditions.

CKLX-FM 91.9 Montreal: No apparent compliance issues. RNC Media notes it appears to have found a winning formula with an all-sports format.

CJRS 1650 AM Montreal: Radio Shalom failed to install an alerting system by the March 31, 2015 deadline, but instead only installed it in September 2016. The station’s owner blamed a lack of funds. Similarly, there was an issue with payments to Musicaction in 2014, which the owner said were solved.

CJSO-FM 101.7 Sorel-Tracy: After two straight short-term licence renewals because of failure to meet licence conditions, the station is once again in apparent non-compliance at renewal time. The CRTC’s main issues are the lack of a public alerting system and incomplete records of music broadcast, which means classification issues that put them in non-compliance with Canadian and French-language music quotas. The station’s replies were brief, noting that the new owner took control 12 days before the deadline to install the public alerting system (“I had other priorities”) and there was confusion on how some songs should be classified in terms of popular versus specialty.

CFOU-FM 89.1 Trois-Rivières: The UQTR campus station failed to provide financial reports for the years 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, because the financial reports they filed correspond to their fiscal year instead of the CRTC-mandated broadcast year of Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

CITE-FM-1 102.7 Sherbrooke plus retransmitter CITE-FM-2 94.5: No apparent compliance issues.

CFAK-FM 88.3 Sherbrooke: No apparent compliance issues for the Sherbrooke campus station.

CHXX-FM 100.9 Donnacona (Quebec City) and retransmitter CHXX-FM-1 105.5 Ste-Croix-De-Lotbinière: Radio X2 failed to comply with its 65% francophone music quota, reaching only 63.5% during a sampled week in February. It blames this on certain songs it believed were French but were actually more than 50% English. This would be its second straight non-compliance finding. The commission suggested it may impose additional contributions to Canadian content development funds (a de facto fine) as a result of non-compliance. The station also says it wants to once again rid itself of conditions of licence requiring it to maintain a presence in Donnacona, but it looks like that request will be treated separately.

CITF-FM 107.5 Quebec City: No apparent compliance issues. But ADISQ wrote in to demand access to reports Bell Media promised to file when it acquired Astral Media on its program to promote independent artists.

CJLL-FM 97.9 Ottawa: No apparent compliance issues for this ethnic station.

Tributes flood in to former CHOM/CKOI announcer Denis Grondin

Denis Grondin, a former announcer at CHOM, CKOI and 98,5fm (or, as some media described him, he’s the father of actor Marc-André Grondin), died suddenly of an apparent heart attack the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. He was 66.

So sudden was his death that it came mere hours after he recorded his weekly show Samedi soir sur la terre for Radio Ville-Marie. The show aired Saturday night as planned, complete with the promise to return next week. You can listen to the final show here: Hour 1, Hour 2.

There weren’t much in the way of formal obituaries in the media, but the French-language news outlets generally offered briefs with tributes that were made on social media:

I’ll do the same below. I’ll also link to this interview in Urbania from last year, where Grondin looks with a critical eye at the state of the industry today.

On Friday, Grondin’s family responded with this:

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Montreal radio ratings: Another win for The Beat

Numeris, the company that measures radio and TV ratings, came out with their quarterly report this week, and once again it was Cogeco’s 92.5 The Beat that had the most good news to announce on the anglo side.

Among anglophone listeners, CKBE-FM had a 17.2% audience share, second only to CJAD’s 28.2% among all listeners. Virgin Radio was well back at 13.5%.

The shares were mostly stable among the anglophone audience, but the exception was Virgin, which was down for the second straight quarter and by almost three points compared to the same time last year. (I’ll compare year-over-year because two years ago when The Beat had a surge in the winter book Virgin claimed it was because of Christmas music that aired on The Beat during the holidays.)

CHOM recovered a bit after hitting a new low in the last quarter. It’s still fourth among anglophone stations, but it regained its position as first among men 25-54.

Despite this being a good report, The Beat couldn’t resist getting cute with spin, saying it’s the “number one radio station”, which only works if you (a) exclude the francophone market and (b) exclude people outside the 25-54 demographic. It also called its morning show the “fastest growing” one in the market with new hosts Vinny and Nikki. Which is kind of like saying your kid is “most improved.” The Beat’s morning show has been historically weak while its daytime has been strong.

Bell’s press release stressed its combined market share (which is, of course, because it owns most of the stations). CJAD still has the highest share by far, and 8 of the 10 most listened-to shows among anglophones. TSN 690 is stable at a 4% share, and CBC Radio One climbed more than one and a half points, its total audience up about 25% among anglophones.

Here are the top-line numbers (average minute audience and listening share) among anglophone listeners:

Station Average minute audience Share Daily reach
CJAD 800 16,600 28.2% 191,400
The Beat 92.5 10,100 17.2% 216,100
Virgin Radio 96 7,900 13.5% 196,200
CHOM 97.7 6,400 11.0% 135,000
CBC Radio One 88.5 4,700 8.1% 51,200
TSN Radio 690 2,400 4.0% 65,100
Rythme FM 105,7 1,200 2.1% 50,700
Radio Classique 1,100 1.9% 26,000
CBC Radio Two 93.5 900 1.6% 21,800
98.5fm 800 1.4% 26,600
Rouge FM 107,3 700 1.1% 29,100
Énergie 94,3 700 1.2% 22,400
CKOI 96,9 500 0.9% 33,600
ICI Radio-Canada Première 95,1 400 0.6% 10,400
ICI Musique 100,7 200 0.3% 5,500
AM 980 100 0.2% 2,500
Radio circulation 730 100 0.1% 5,600
91.9 Sports 100 0.1% 4,900
CIBL 101,5 0 0.0% 900

Among Montreal francophone listeners:

Station Average minute audience Share Daily reach
98.5fm 36,500 21.0% 584,000
Rythme FM 105,7 28,400 16.3% 620,200
ICI Radio-Canada Première 95,1 23,400 13.4% 309,900
Rouge FM 107,3 14,600 8.4% 389,900
CKOI 96,9 14,200 8.2% 436,200
Énergie 94,3 10,300 5.9% 348,100
Virgin Radio 96 9,400 5.4% 350,400
The Beat 92.5 8,000 4.6% 336,100
CHOM 97.7 7,400 4.2% 255,800
ICI Musique 100,7 4,300 2.5% 107,100
91.9 Sports 3,700 2.1% 68,100
Radio Classique 3,600 2.1% 91,800
CJAD 800 2,100 1.2% 40,800
AM 980 1,300 0.7% 18,200
CBC Radio One 88.5 1,000 0.6% 23,800
CBC Radio Two 93.5 700 0.4% 32,700
Radio circulation 730 400 0.2% 36,200
CIBL 101,5 200 0.1% 14,600
TSN Radio 690 100 0.1% 5,300

Combined:

Station Average minute audience Daily reach
98.5fm 37,300 610,600
Rythme FM 105,7 29,600 670,900
ICI Radio-Canada Première 95,1 23,800 320,300
CJAD 800 18,700 232,200
The Beat 92.5 18,100 552,200
Virgin Radio 96 17,300 546,600
Rouge FM 107,3 15,300 419,000
CKOI 96,9 14,700 469,800
CHOM 97.7 13,800 390,800
Énergie 94,3 11,000 370,500
CBC Radio One 88.5 5,700 75,000
Radio Classique 4,700 117,800
ICI Musique 100,7 4,500 112,600
91.9 Sports 3,800 73,000
TSN Radio 690 2,500 70,400
CBC Radio Two 93.5 1,600 54,500
AM 980 1,400 20,700
Radio circulation 730 500 41,800
CIBL 101,5 200 15,500

Victory for 98,5fm, Radio-Canada and 91,9 Sports, loss for Rythme and Rouge

On the franco side, unsurprisingly it was another win for 98,5fm, which once again declared itself the most listened-to radio station in all of Canada. Though its average minute audience of 37,300 (in its central market) is beat by Toronto’s CHFI-FM with 42,400.

Bell Media’s press release couldn’t dig up much to say about Rouge FM, so it led with Énergie instead, noting its improvement. Rouge FM dropped 2.5 percentage points in market share from a year ago.

Not that Rythme FM was much better. Though it’s still ahead of Rouge FM in the ratings, its share dropped to 16.3% from a high of 20.5% in the summer.

Great news for Radio-Canada’s Première station, which after hitting a low of 6.6% this summer has hit a high of 13.4%, putting it third in the market. Radio-Canada’s press release notes that morning show Gravel le matin is second in the market, behind 98,5fm’s Paul Arcand.

There were some winners on the low end of the ratings board as well.

RNC Media’s 91.9 Sports, which went through a series of format changes — from jazz to right-wing talk to news talk and finally to sports — in an attempt to find an audience, seems to be happy with the sports talk format. It had a 2.1% share, which is 50% higher than the last ratings book, and an average-minute audience of 3,700 which just slightly edges Radio Classique. The boost was enough to warrant an article in the Journal de Montréal.

Good news as well for CHRF AM 980, which more than doubled its share to 0.7%. Still dead last among music stations, but it’s an improvement.

Community station CIBL, which started reporting for the first time last quarter, is still the lowest-rated station overall, with an average of 200 listeners in French and an English number within the margin of error of zero. The station looks like it’s going to stay here for the time being. Its new manager explained during a recent general assembly that they discovered Numeris offers lower prices for community stations.

Other reporting

  • InfoPresse (25-54 numbers)
  • La Presse (highlights of francophone stations, plus top 10 shows)

Elliott Price to host morning show on The Fan 590 in Toronto

Elliott Price

Well, now we know the real reason why Elliott Price canned his daily show on CFMB 1280: He’s moving to Toronto.

Sportsnet announced today that Price takes over as morning co-host at 590 The Fan starting Feb. 27, along with Greg Brady and Hugh Burrill. Their show will be called Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup with Brady & Price, weekdays from 5:30-9am.

I spoke with Price for a story in the Montreal Gazette that appears in Thursday’s paper.

The new show replaces Dean Blundell & Co., which was terminated effective immediately. Blundell said it was a mutual decision.

In Twitter posts (his account is now protected), Blundell gave thanks to Sportsnet:

Thanks to all at Rogers and Sportsnet. Owe a great deal of gratitude. Mutual and in both our best interest to not renew….Everyone at the Fan was super kind to me. Sports deserves people that live it and breathe it. I can’t wait to swim with both arms….and look forward to what’s next.

Because Blundell was such a controversial figure in the biggest market in the country, there’s a lot of coverage of this story from that angle in Toronto: Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Toronto Sports Media, Barrett Sports Media and The Canadian Press, each with different details and quotes.

Price developed a relationship with Sportsnet, and in particular 590 The Fan program director Dave Cadeau, with his CFMB show, even rebranding it as Sportsnet Tonight.

This change will mean leaving the market he’s worked in for decades, but entering the largest one in the country, and in a prestigious position on top of that. Toronto has both a Sportsnet and TSN radio station, with the Sportsnet station having a 4% overall market share and the TSN station a 0.5% share. But following the popular (though controversial) Blundell won’t be easy.

Price also hasn’t forgotten his former co-host, and sent a public note to his former home suggesting they hire him:

“This is good”

I spoke with Price on Wednesday. He confirmed the obvious, that he knew of his new job when he ended the CFMB show. “They made it clear that they were interested in my services for a couple of months,” he said. “They phoned and said we’re interested in bringing you down here.”

I asked him how long it took for him to say yes.

“Shorter than it took to answer this question,” he said.

Price has spent almost all his broadcasting career in Montreal, at CJAD, CFCF/CIQC, and CKGM (Team 990/TSN 690). Before that he spent three years in New Brunswick and three days in Regina. (“I was out covering a press conference and CJAD called me,” he said of the decision to leave that job so quickly.)

But moving to Toronto wasn’t a difficult decision. “The day the Expos left we were ready to go anywhere and we’ve been in that mood for 12 years,” he said.

Not only is the new job a big step up from CFMB and even a step up from his old one at CKGM — it’s in Canada’s largest sports market, and at a higher-rated sports station — but it gives him a chance to talk less about hockey.

“I’m a baseball fan. I love to talk baseball. I’m glad I get to talk about baseball again. (Montreal is) a one-horse town. There’s the Alouettes and Impact, but people want to hear you talk Habs. I have more interests. I love baseball, I love basketball.”

In Toronto, the Leafs are king, but there are also the Blue Jays and the Raptors.

“There’s no better job (in Montreal) than where I’m going. It would have been easier to just stay in my hometown, but this is good.”

So he’s looking for a place to stay in Toronto. Or, well, his family is looking. “I’m not the boss,” he said. “The boss is scouting.”

What about leaving Montreal? Having to talk about the Leafs instead of the Habs? No problem for Price, since he’s kind of indifferent about either team.

“The Canadiens and the Leafs there’s no difference for me,” he said. “When things go bad, I like to see them go really bad. When they’re good I like to see them go good.”

But he hates the Bruins. And that won’t change in Toronto.

Even talking about the Jays gets him to talk about baseball. The Expos don’t exist anymore, so that rivalry isn’t an issue.

And if the Expos came back?

“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” he said. “The Expos have been gone for 12 years now, that’s a long time.”

So what will he miss about Montreal?

“Smoked meat and bagels,” he said. He definitely won’t be the first Montreal ex-pat in Toronto who misses Schwartz’s and St-Viateur Bagel.

I also asked him about what he posted to Facebook when he ended the CFMB show, about the English radio market in Montreal and lack of advertisers.

“The problem with the market here is the dwindling language demographic,” he said. He asked me how big Montreal’s English-language market is, and I said it was about the size of Winnipeg. He didn’t really believe it. (Numeris, the company that measures radio ratings, gives Greater Montreal’s anglo market a size of 805,000, and WInnipeg 705,460 in its latest reports.)

But while he said he thought his show was viable, mainly because he didn’t have to worry about covering a lot of overhead in his show’s budget, he put a lot of the blame on himself.

“I did everything, but I’m not a salesman, and I really didn’t do a good job. I did well because I built up a cachet in this town,” he said, noting that a lot of advertisers came to him after he left TSN 690. “I didn’t get out there and sell, and I need to and I didn’t.”

Price is the second former Montreal radio personality to get a job in Toronto this month. Sarah Bartok announced last week she’s joining 93.5 The Move.

UPDATE (Feb. 9): Brady has a long, honest Facebook post today talking about his career, what it’s like to have gotten pushed aside for Blundell, and his new team including Price.

Sarah Bartok hired by Toronto’s 93.5 The Move

Sarah Bartok is back on the air (93.5 The Move)

Those hoping that Sarah Bartok would find another on-air job after being let go from The Beat 92.5 last spring (chiefly among them Bartok herself) had their wish granted this week, though those hoping it would be in Montreal will be left disappointed.

Instead, Bartok’s new job is as a swing announcer on Toronto’s CFXJ-FM (93.5 The Move), owned by Newcap Radio. Her first shift was Saturday, and she’ll be filling in on the schedule where needed, including on the morning show Monday to Wednesday this week.

Bartok made the announcement on her Facebook page on Friday.

The Move (formerly Flow 93.5) has a pop music format similar to the station she left (not to mention the purple colour on the website). The 16-year-old station, which was owned by CHUM, sold to Bell and then offloaded to Newcap when Bell bought Astral and hit ownership limits in Toronto, has a 3.7kW signal and a 2.2% market share in the latest Numeris ratings report, which is low even in a market so saturated that not a single station has a double-digit share. But Toronto’s a much bigger market than Montreal, so she’ll still have plenty of listeners.

Elliott Price ends show on CFMB

Elliott Price

UPDATE (Feb. 8): Sportsnet has announced that Elliott Price will be co-host of the morning show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

Elliott Price is pulling the plug on Sportsnet Tonight after a year on CFMB 1280 AM.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Price thanked sponsors, contributors and listeners, but had a message for those who didn’t choose to advertise, as well as Montreal’s English community in general:

Many had a chance to advertise and chose not to.
Although reaching out to you was not one of my strengths.
I hope in the future you can see past your wallets.

If you have a chance and a few dollars and think it important, please invest in our future or soon none of us will live here or our culture will be completely gone.

Price said he’ll take a vacation as he contemplates what next to do with his life.

Price began airing a show on CFMB on Valentine’s Day 2016, three months after he was laid off by TSN 690. It started as a weekly Sunday night show called Price is Right, but was upgraded to a two-hour daily show in June. In August, it announced a deal with Sportsnet and changed its name to Sportsnet Tonight with Elliott Price. At the time, I asked whether the show was viable, and Price said it was about halfway to that point. It seems he couldn’t get it the rest of the way there.

Sportsnet Tonight’s final show is tonight, 8-10pm, on CFMB 1280 AM. There’s been no announcement of what will replace it on CFMB’s schedule.

Heather Backman, Paul Beauregard laid off at CHOM

Heather Backman

Heather Backman, who was Terry DiMonte’s co-host on CHOM’s morning show since he returned to Montreal in 2012, is no longer in that role. Backman updated her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles to remove references to the station, and CHOM’s website no longer lists her as co-host for the morning show.

Paul Beauregard, who returned to CHOM recently to fill in on various shifts, is also out.

I wrote about their layoffs in a story for the Montreal Gazette, which also includes some analysis of the financial situation of Bell Media’s radio stations and the market (albeit with figures from 2014-15).

Matthew Garrow, Director of News, Local Stations, Sports, Discovery Networks & Community Investment for Bell Media, confirmed that there are layoffs happening at CHOM, without mentioning any names:

I can confirm that we are reducing several positions at CHOM. These changes are the result of the challenges Bell Media and other Canadian media companies are facing due to increasing international competition, the evolution of broadcast technologies, and advertising and regulatory pressure.

We have no further comment on the matter at this time.

Backman herself had no immediate comment, but posted a message to Facebook on Tuesday morning thanking DiMonte, producer Esteban Vargas and former bosses Martin Spalding and the late André Lallier.

Beauregard also declined to comment.

The cuts at CHOM are part of wider cuts at Bell Media nationwide. They include:

Bell hasn’t said how many people it’s letting go across the country, where they are, or if there are other cuts to come.

UPDATE (Jan. 31): DiMonte addressed Backman’s departure at the beginning of Tuesday’s morning show, saying the decision was “not mine to make”, and citing the disruptive nature of employment in the industry. He said the position of morning show co-host has been eliminated and the show would “take a new direction, and we’re moving forward without Heather.” He said Monday was “tough” and she will be missed but the station wishes her the best. (He posted a nearly identical message on his Facebook page.)

This was DiMonte’s only unprompted statement about Backman during Tuesday’s show, so most listeners didn’t hear it. But it was brought up during the 7am hour when contributor Pierre Houde brought it up to pay tribute. Here’s what he said:

The Beat’s Nat Lauzon was among those local personalities to (at least publicly) show support to her dismissed friend:

Kim Sullivan, who worked at both Virgin Radio and The Beat, also paid tribute:

Bell activates Montreal’s first HD Radio station, simulcasts CJAD, TSN 690 on FM HD

TSN 690 being received via HD Radio signal on 107.3 FM.

As major Canadian broadcasters begin their experimentation with HD Radio transmitters, Bell Media has quietly launched a transmitter on its CITE-FM station in Montreal (Rouge FM 107.3), and is using it to simulcast CJAD 800 and TSN Radio 690.

A Bell Media spokesperson confirmed that this is a “soft launch” of the transmitter, with plans to publicize it more in the coming weeks, once testing is complete and everyone is back from the holidays. The plan is to keep the three channels going forward:

  • HD1: Rouge FM
  • HD2: CJAD 800
  • HD3: TSN 690

The Rouge FM station was chosen for this for technical reasons. I don’t know specifically what they are, but CITE-FM is a full-power station (currently at 42.9kW), and has plenty of space on both sides of the frequency to accommodate the extra channels without causing interference to adjacent-channel stations.

There are no plans “at this point” to add more HD channels.

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CRTC gives TTP Media until June 30 to launch English radio station at 600 AM

For the fourth time in as many years, a group owned by a trio of Montreal businessmen has appealed to the CRTC for an extension on their deadline to launch a new AM radio station, claiming that unforeseen circumstances have caused delays but assuring the commission that they’ve been resolved and the station is months away from launch.

TTP Media’s request for an extension for 600 AM

On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that it will grant an extension, until June 30, 2017, to 7954689 Canada Inc. (TTP Media) to launch its English talk radio station at 600 AM, first authorized in 2012.

As it did with the 940 AM station a year ago, the extension was granted despite the previous extension being declared “final” by the commission. Though the previous extensions, despite being requested for only a few months, were given for a full year, this one is limited to June 30, after the group said it should have the station on air by June.

This is the first official communication from the otherwise very quiet group for a year now, so we have some information on what is causing the delays, and what their short-term plans are.

As in previous requests, Managing Partner Nicolas Tétrault blames “the consolidation in the commercial broadcasting business in Montreal,” a reference to the Bell acquisition of Astral Media that was finalized in 2013 (and did not result in any major programming changes to existing stations in the market). But here he indicates that the banks that are loaning them tens of millions of dollars needed some reassuring on the group’s business plan. (This may be, at least in part, why they abandoned plans for a third station at 850 AM, though that station is not mentioned at all in the application.)

The bigger issue has related to the transmitter itself. The group finally came to an agreement with Cogeco Media to buy all the assets of the former CINW 940 and CINF 690 transmitter site in Kahnawake, and signed a new lease with the land owner, Frances Montour. The details of the lease are redacted, but it appears to go until 2022, with clauses for renewal beyond that.

It didn’t take long after the agreements were signed in late September and early October for the 940 transmitter to be brought back to life, at first to do on-site testing, antenna tuning and impedance matching, and later full on-air testing.

The station, CFNV 940 AM, has legally launched, but a de facto launch is expected early in 2017, according to its Twitter account. In the meantime, it’s running music — currently all-Christmas music — interspersed with recorded messages every 15 minutes:

You’ll notice the station refers to itself as “La superstation”. Time will tell if it lives up to that tagline.

More work needed for 600

For the English station at 600, there’s more work needed than turning the switch back on and transmitting again. The towers that were set to work at 690 have to be re-tuned for 600, and the transmitter itself needs to be sent to the factory to be reset to the new frequency. On top of it all, parts for AM transmitters aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, and nowadays must be custom made, which causes more delays.

From Patrice Lemée, engineer at Commspec:

Concernant la station AM 600KHz, l’envergure des travaux techniques est beaucoup plus complexe. Celle-ci sise e?galement dans les anciennes infrastructures de Cogeco Me?dia Inc. ope?rant a? la fre?quence 690KHz. Par contre, un changement de fre?quence est requis afin de diffuser a? la fre?quence 600KHz. Ces changements touchent l’essence me?me du site de diffusion. L’e?metteur doit e?tre partiellement re?-expe?die? a? l’usine afin d’e?tre re-synthonise? a? la nouvelle fre?quence. Le syste?me de phasage doit comple?tement e?tre redessine? afin de diffuser a? la nouvelle fre?quence d’ope?ration. De plus, ces deux stations (600 & 940) coexistent sur le me?me site de diffusion. Ce qui entraine des complexite?s supple?mentaires quant a? la conception du syste?me.

Afin de proce?der aux diffe?rentes modifications du syste?me de diffusion de la station AM 600Khz, nous avons contacte? diffe?rents manufacturiers. Base? sur les re?ponses des soumissions obtenues, il semblerait que certains manufacturiers ont de la difficulte? a? obtenir les pie?ces requises pour effectuer la conversion dans les de?lais prescrits.

Je vous confirme cependant que les travaux sont de?ja? entame?s et que la conception est pratiquement termine?e. Par contre, la rarete? des pie?ces d’e?quipement AM est une re?alite? de nos jours. Les pie?ces sont maintenant faites sur demande et les de?lais de livraison sont beaucoup plus longs que par le passe?. Il est assez fre?quent de rencontrer des de?lais de livraison de 12 a? 16 semaines.

Suite aux informations cite?es pre?ce?demment, nous estimons qu’il sera possible d’effectuer les modifications du syste?me de diffusion du 600KHz seulement au printemps 2017. Nous demandons donc une extension de la date de mise en service jusqu’au 30 juin 2017.

The application makes no mention of administrative or on-air aspects of either stations, including launch dates, on-air talent or studio location. So we’ll just have to continue to wait.

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.