Tag Archives: CFGL

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Montreal radio ratings: “a solid book” for The Beat, but …

Station Winter 2011 Winter 2012 Fall 2012 Winter 2013
CJAD 25.9 24.8 25.2 25.0
CJFM (Virgin) 18.2 17.3 18.6 15.9
CKBE (Beat) 17.2 14.9 16.6 18.6
CHOM 10.3 11.9 13.7 13.5
CKGM (TSN) 2.6 4.4 2.3 2.6
CBME (CBC1) 7.5 8.2 7.2 7.0
CBM (CBC2) 2.9 2.7 2.4 2.5

BBM ratings, anglo 2+ audience

I don’t normally pay that much attention to the quarterly BBM ratings of Montreal radio stations. Not because I don’t care, but just because there’s rarely anything in them that’s newsworthy. A share point up here, a share point down there. Some stations do better in some time periods, others do better in others. There isn’t usually much movement.

Lately, CJAD has been first overall among all audiences, while the three music stations have been fighting for audience in key demographics: men for CHOM, young women for Virgin and somewhat older women for The Beat. CBC falls significantly behind, and TSN Radio even further. Other stations don’t even register. Things have been a bit more interesting on the French side with the rise of CHMP 98.5, which is now Quebec’s most-listened-to radio station.

But today’s numbers (PDF) showed a significant change for once: In overall audience (ages 2+), The Beat has leaped ahead of Virgin Radio for the first time, getting an 18.6% share versus 15.9%. That prompted The Beat to send out a press release calling itself “Montreal’s #1 Music Station”.

That was enough for a Gazette story on the matter.

But as the story shows, The Beat’s claim to be ahead of Virgin comes with a caveat: Virgin still outperforms in key demographics (among them, adults 25-54, adults 18-34 and women 25-54) and in key time periods.

In Astral’s press release, in which Virgin also calls itself “Montreal’s number one music station”, it focuses on the key advertising demographic of adults 25-54, in which Virgin still leads.

We could play with demographics all day, but if we stick to adults 25-54, the results show a three-way tie among the music stations: Virgin 21.9%, The Beat 20.1% and CHOM 20.0%, with CJAD behind at 13.1%. This represents an upward trend for The Beat and CHOM, but is down from last year for Virgin.

See some analysis here from Astral, and here from La Presse.

Needless to say everyone’s happy and everyone is number one. Here’s how the numbers break down for each station:

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Posted in Radio

Regional CKOI stations turn to talk

While everyone’s focused on CHOI Radio X coming to Montreal, it’s not the only music station in Quebec switching to a talk radio format today.

As announced in June, Cogeco converted three regional stations from the CKOI brand to news-talk brands based on the one used by CHMP 98.5FM in Montreal.

They join FM 93 in Quebec City (CJMF-FM) and FM 98 in Saguenay (CKRS-FM), the latter of which is an independently-owned station that carries some network programming.

The three new stations share much of the same programming. They include:

Each station continues to have its own local morning show, noon show and afternoon drive show on weekdays. They will also air sports programming including Canadiens and Alouettes games, except for the station in Gatineau which air Senators games.

Meanwhile, at other stations

CKOI in Montreal, which remains a music station, launched its new programming today. It adds Yan England to its morning show, Nadia Bilodeau to afternoons (starting Sept. 10) and revamps its noon show to focus more on humour.

Mitsou, who left NRJ in June and was rumoured to be heading to rival Rythme FM, confirmed she’ll be starting there Nov. 20. She’ll join the afternoon show, instead of the morning one, so she can spend mornings with her family. Marie-Soleil Michon will host the show until Mitsou starts. Also joining Rythme FM (CFGL-FM) are Lise Dion and, according to La Presse, Denis Fortin.

NRJ Montreal (CKMF-FM) adds Mike Gauthier with its fall schedule. He’ll also join Rouge FM in Quebec City, which is also owned by Astral.

La Presse has a few other tidbits of programming changes at French-language radio stations in Montreal.

In Quebec City, legendary pranksters Les Justiciers Masqués are back on the radio, joining the afternoon show at the CKOI station there, which is owned by Leclerc Communication.

Posted in Radio

Radio ratings: Good news for 98.5, The Beat and CHOM

Quarterly radio ratings were released earlier this month. You can see the BBM compilation of top-line data here (PDF), but it doesn’t say too much.

Astral and Cogeco both provide analysis for the benefit of advertisers, Astral in the form of a slideshow (PDF) and Groupe Force Radio (which represents Cogeco stations and independent former Corus stations in Quebec City and Saguenay) also does a slide presentation (PDF). The latter tends to be more detailed, but is also more biased, highlighting their stations’ successes and their competitors’ struggles.

Here, based on those reports, is some analysis of what’s going on in commercial radio in Montreal. We’ll start with the English side.

English radio

Afternoon ratings show a spike for Donna Saker’s show on CKBE, rocketing it to No. 1. There’s a similar spike in late mornings and at noon-hour.

Overall, there hasn’t been much change in the ratings. A few points up, a few points down. But breaking it down a bit you see some significant gains for CKBE-FM 92.5 (The Beat) and a few highlights for CHOM-FM 97.7 as well.

The Beat, which rebranded last fall in an effort to attract a younger female audience but hadn’t seen much movement in ratings until now, is starting to see the change (and accompanying marketing spending) pay off. It’s second behind Virgin Radio among adults 18-49 and 25-54 (in both cases passing CHOM), first among adults 35-64 (passing CJAD) and has seen a gain of more than 50% in a year for men 25-54 (which is interesting because the station is targetting women).

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Posted in Montreal, Opinion, Radio

CRTC caves in to Cogeco

The CRTC, which sets rules regarding concentration of ownership in broadcast media, decided it could simply ignore them in a ruling on Friday that gave Cogeco the right to buy almost all the assets of Corus Quebec.

Specifically, Cogeco would buy 11 stations for $80 million, including Montreal’s 92.5 the Q (formerly Q92), CFQR-FM.

In Montreal:

Elsewhere:

  • CJRC-FM Souvenirs Garantis 104.7 in Gatineau
  • CIME-FM 103.9 in St-Jerome
  • CHLT-FM Souvenirs Garantis 107.7 in Sherbrooke
  • CKOY-FM 104.5 in Sherbrooke
  • CHLN-FM Souvenirs Garantis 106.9 in Trois-Rivières
  • CFOM-FM Souvenirs Garantis 102.9 in Quebec City
  • CFEL-FM (“CKOI”) 102.1 in Quebec City

The biggest problem with the acquisition is that it would violate a CRTC rule that says one company can’t own more than two stations in each language on each band in each market. Cogeco was willing to get around this by selling stations in Quebec City and converting one in Sherbrooke into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station.

But it wanted an exception in Montreal. CHMP 98.5 is the flagship station of the Corus talk radio network, and Rythme FM (CFGL) and CKOI are the No. 1 and No. 2 music stations, making them a whole lot of money. Cogeco said that a requirement to sell one of those stations would torpedo the whole deal (CKOI alone represents half the cost of the acquisition), and promised that in exchange for this special consideration they would hire journalists throughout Quebec and create a talk-radio news agency.

And the CRTC caved. Well, mostly.

They didn’t buy the idea of turning Sherbrooke’s CKOY FM into a retransmitter of Montreal’s CKAC sports station, and gave Cogeco a year to find a buyer for it. They also made a strict condition that Cogeco’s plan for a news agency continue, so they can’t pull a bait and switch.

That part is good news. The idea of Cogeco Nouvelles sounds good. At least the part about them hiring 33 full-time journalists and spending $3 million a year on news sounds good. The part about sharing content sounds a lot like the regional stations will all take the majority of their content from Montreal and insert a bare minimum of local stories just to justify their license.

But still, considering how little actual journalism comes out of private radio in Quebec, on the whole this is good.

There are also a few additional incentives to sweeten the deal, like this: Cogeco will “provide its services free-of-charge to groups operating fewer than three French-language radio stations in Quebec’s small markets as long as they agree to supply COGECO Nouvelles with news from their markets. The service’s content will also be available free-of-charge to community radio stations.”

Oligopoly

But as nice as all that is, and I hope Cogeco Nouvelles succeeds, the problem of radio competition remains. Instead of three players in the Quebec francophone (popular) music scene in Montreal, there would be two, representing an astonishing 95% of advertising revenue in the biggest market in Quebec. And that’s true for both the French and English-language markets in Montreal. If you discount jazz, classical and CBC/Radio-Canada’s stations, the two will own all seven music stations (four francophone, three anglophone) in Montreal.

Much of the debate at the CRTC seemed to be about Astral Media, which owns the NRJ and Rock Détente networks and is seen as a major player in the regions. But rather than acknowledge that there’s a serious problem with Astral Media owning stations that should be competing with each other (this is particularly true in Montreal’s anglophone market, where Astral owns CHOM 97.7, CJFM 95.9 Virgin Radio and CJAD 800), the CRTC decided that the best response was to create an even bigger behemoth in Cogeco.

With the acquisition, Cogeco stations would have an astounding 46.6% market share in the Montreal francophone market and 22.4% in the anglophone market, or 41.3% total. Astral, meanwhile, has a 31.4% share in the francophone market and a 55.4% share in the anglophone market. Note that all these numbers don’t exclude CBC/Radio-Canada stations. When you consider just commercial stations, or as a share of ad revenues, those numbers are even higher.

The suggestion that this would somehow “restore a competitive balance” is silly.

The Montreal-less network

There’s also a problem that isn’t being considered very well here: While Cogeco argues that regional talk-radio stations need the resources and “expertise” of Montreal’s 98.5 FM, it also plans to sell stations in the regions to a third party that won’t be able to setup a Montreal station if they want to build a network.

For example, CKOI is a brand network in Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City. As part of the acquisition, Cogeco will have to sell the Sherbrooke and Quebec City stations in this network, but not the Montreal one. And there isn’t exactly a lot of extra space on the dial for someone to setup a new francophone music station in Montreal. So not only would anyone who wants to buy these stations have to change their brands (along with the Rythme FM station in Quebec City), but they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of whatever efficiencies Astral and Corus/Cogeco think they have found with multi-region brands.

Personally, I think music radio stations can do fine without needing to belong to a Montreal-network (some names are already popping up as potential buyers). But it’s funny that Cogeco puts such a strong emphasis on the need for a Montreal flagship station for its talk radio network but has no problem with other people having radio stations in the regions without a Montreal-based moneymaker to keep them afloat.

In conclusion: Good for radio, bad for radio choice

I’m happy that the CRTC handled some of the issues I brought up in my criticism of Cogeco’s plan. And I’m happy that Cogeco is planning to setup a regional radio news network and hire journalists.

But this is a step backwards for radio diversity in Montreal, at a time when the city desperately needs more competition in commercial radio.

The CRTC should review its rules for media concentration, particularly because the public seems to be abandoning the AM band and because Montreal’s numbers suggest that commercial music stations aren’t strictly segregated on the basis of language.

Montreal has seven commercial radio stations that all play popular music that sounds a lot alike. It should have more than two companies running them.

More coverage in:

UPDATE (Jan. 12): Almost a month after the CRTC’s decision, and weeks before the transaction is set to close, Astral decides to appeal to the federal court to overturn it, saying it was “arbitrary and unreasonable” to change the rules at the last minute just for Cogeco. VP Claude Laflamme makes the point in the statement that “the sudden lack of predictability in the application of the CRTC policy penalizes all broadcasters which in the past decided not to pursue business opportunities in order to abide by the policy as formulated and as consistently applied.”

La Presse quotes Cogeco as counter-arguing that Astral controls 75% of the anglophone market (they own CJAD, CHOM and CJFM, but that doesn’t violate the CRTC’s rules), and they shouldn’t be pointing fingers about media concentration.

Note that while Astral suggests that Cogeco should have been forced to sell one of the music stations, it doesn’t have its eyes on them because it already owns two francophone FM stations in Montreal (CITE Rock Détente 107.3 and CKMF NRJ 94.3)

UPDATE (Jan. 14): Corus says it will, of course, fight this appeal, and that the Cogeco deal is still set to close on Feb. 1.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

Cogeco’s self-serving plan for Quebec radio

Three months after announcing a deal to buy Corus Quebec’s radio stations (with the exception of CKRS in Saguenay, which has been sold to an independent group including Guy Carbonneau), Cogeco and the CRTC yesterday both released Cogeco’s proposal for how it will run those stations.

Among the highlights:

Cogeco News

In addition to the above, Cogeco is talking big about creating a “news agency” that would serve all its stations (I guess they mean something bigger than Corus Nouvelles). Here’s what they say in their press release:

The news agency that COGECO proposes to set up will play a key role in enriching local information and will provide a complement to the other information sources available in Quebec. All of the stations of the COGECO group as well as independent stations in the regions and community stations will be asked to contribute to the content available through the agency. In return, they will be able to select the most relevant news for their respective listening audiences and produce their own news bulletins locally.

Pooling resources through the news agency, which will be coordinated by FM 98.5, will create a full information source available 24/7 – because news happens nights and weekends, too.

Furthermore, sharing information resources will allow regional stations CHLN-FM Trois-Rivieres, CHLT-FM Sherbrooke and CJRC-FM Gatineau, which will remain predominantly spoken-word radio services but will now primarily target men between the ages of 25 and 54, to devote their resources to producing local shows. Most significantly, this means the return of local public affairs programming in the morning and at noon, as well as locally produced news bulletins.

Finally, a night-time show and a weekend morning public affairs show will be produced and offered to all stations of the group. Community stations and independent stations in the regions will also have the benefit of these new resources and information content.

“We want to put information radio in Quebec back on top,” commented Mr. Lachance. “Since COGECO is a business that is close to its people, it is a natural fit for us to make local information and local interest content the heart of our strategy. The decision to include independent stations in the regions and community stations in the agency aligns with that, and we think this is great news for radio in Quebec.”

Unless I’ve misunderstood, this sounds a lot like what the TV networks have done to local television stations. They still produce local newscasts locally (well, except Global), but many of the stories they produce are prepackaged by the national network. Without the resources and staff to put together a full newscast, the local stations are forced to use these prepackaged reports, even if they’re local stories from local newscast hundreds of kilometres away that have little interest to their communities.

And Cogeco is trying to sell this as a good thing for local radio.

Of course, if the alternative is no news at all, or a straight rebroadcast of a Montreal signal, I guess it is good news.

Let us cheat, but only where we get rich

Cogeco doesn’t try to hide the fact that its request to keep its stations in Montreal is all about money. Rythme FM is the No. 1 station in Montreal, 98.5 has the most popular morning show, and CKOI also does very well here.

Their excuse for wanting to keep all these money-generating stations? They’re throwing out a bunch:

98.5 is special: “The proposed exception affects only FM 98.5 in Montreal’s French-language radio market and would allow COGECO to operate three French-language FM radio stations, each in its own niche.”

Are Rythme FM and CKOI so different that they qualify as their “own niches”? And the exception applies equally to them. Nothing stops Cogeco from keeping 98.5 and selling Rythme FM or CKOI. It’s selling both stations from those networks in Quebec City and shutting down CKOI’s sister station in Sherbrooke.

It saves the French language: “The distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market and the importance of keeping talk radio like FM 98.5 strong in order to ensure the sustainability of French-language spoken-word radio in Quebec justify our request for an exception”

I have no idea what bilingualism has to do with this, nor how “the distinctiveness of the bilingual Montreal market” somehow means it makes sense to concentrate ownership. I don’t know whether 98.5 is profitable. If it is, they can sell it to someone who will keep the talk radio format. If it isn’t, there’s no guarantee Cogeco won’t change the format and make it a music station or something else that’s cheaper to produce.

It helps the regions financially: “Without that exception, it will be next to impossible for COGECO to indefinitely support regional spoken-word radio stations that have been running heavy deficits for many years.”

That’s an argument for converting CKOY in Sherbrooke from a station to a retransmitter, but what does it have to do with Montreal? Does Cogeco expect us to believe that if we give them an exception to media concentration rules that they’ll subsidize money-losing regional stations indefinitely?

It helps the regions with programming: “The limited exception sought by COGECO would breathe new life into stations in the regions by providing them links to strong programming sources – to FM 98.5 primarily, for information and public affairs, and to CKAC-AM for sports and CKOI-FM for its expertise and music content.”

Again with the distraction. CKAC has nothing to do with the exception, since it’s an AM station. And as for CKOI, you just said you’re selling its sister station in Quebec City and shutting down its sister station in Sherbrooke. If Montreal-based programming would save these stations, why do you insist on getting rid of them?

We should include anglo stations too: “… a very high number of francophone listeners tune in to English-language music stations.”

Sure. CHOM and CJFM get a lot of francophones listening to them. But so does CFQR, which you’ll recall is one of the stations you’re buying. Add in the anglo stations, and Cogeco wants to own five of the 13 commercial radio stations in the city, and four of the eight commercial FM (mainstream) music stations. This doesn’t support their argument very well.

Straight-up bullshit: “Our plan is without a doubt the best opportunity to increase diversity of voices across Quebec that the broadcasting system has seen in many years.”

You’re buying a former competitor. Don’t pretend it’s the opposite of what it is.

Ooh, money!

Oh, and that last part they mentioned about “an exceptional contribution of 9% of the total transaction value, an amount of $7.2 million, to various organizations and initiatives to support the radio system”? Sounds kind of generous, doesn’t it?

It’s CRTC policy that when a broadcaster is sold, the buyer proposes a “tangible benefits” package of 10% of the purchase price to contribute positively to the development of the broadcasting system. The money doesn’t go to the CRTC, but to organizations that support independent productions and other good things.

You math majors might notice that their 9% proposal is less than the 10% CRTC policy. In other words, it’s another exception they’re asking for, one that they’re selling to the public as a generous donation on their part.

What the CRTC should do

Cogeco hasn’t made anywhere near a solid case for keeping three FM stations in the Montreal market. It’s selling or shutting down Rythme FM and CKOI-branded stations elsewhere in Quebec, and freely admits its only motivation for wanting to keep these stations here is money. The CRTC should order Cogeco to sell one of the FM stations in Montreal, and let someone who isn’t Cogeco or Astral Media take a shot at making money from commercial francophone radio in Montreal.

Cogeco’s point about the unprofitability of regional stations is a good one, but giving the company what it wants in Montreal won’t suddenly make those stations profitable (even with all the big talk about a news agency they promise). It will at best simply delay their eventual decision to either sell or shut down those regional stations.

In Quebec City, Cogeco’s plan to sell two stations would put it in compliance with CRTC guidelines. No problem there.

In Sherbrooke, Cogeco is presenting its plan as a “win-win-win”, proving it doesn’t give a crap about local radio. The CRTC should order Cogeco to find a buyer for CKOY. Corus found a buyer for CKRS in Saguenay, and those Quebec City stations are going to someone. I’m willing to bet there’s interest in CKOY if it’s on the block for cheap. If Cogeco is interested in having a CKAC retransmitter in Sherbrooke, it can apply for a new license on a vacant frequency.

The CRTC will hold a hearing on Sept. 28 at 9am at Le Nouvel Hotel (1740 René-Lévesque W., corner Saint-Mathieu) to consider the application.

UPDATE (Aug. 6): Cogeco VP Richard Lachance does interviews with Infopresse and Paul Arcand explaining the plan, saying the new news service will create about a dozen jobs (including reporters in the federal and provincial legislatures), and there’s no Plan B if the CRTC decides it doesn’t like Cogeco’s plan.

Trente, meanwhile, takes another look at the plan, referencing this blog post.