Tag Archives: CJFM

Montreal radio ratings: Virgin Radio 96 slips to fourth place

Market share among anglophone Montrealers, based on Numeris data

Numeris published its latest quarterly report for metered markets today, and the data for Montreal is about the same as it always is, with one exception: Virgin Radio 96 has its lowest overall share ever, and for the first time has dipped below CHOM to fourth place among anglophones — 12.1% to CHOM’s 12.5%. Both stations are owned by Bell Media, so it’s not a huge deal in terms of competition, but the trend line for Virgin is clearly heading down, from a high of 20% in 2012.

I have no magical explanation for this trend, and I’m sure everyone has their theories, from its use of syndicated programming like Ryan Seacrest to its loss of popular announcers to The Beat, but the most likely explanation is that The Beat has a better idea of what music anglos want to listen to.

The Beat’s press release, announcing itself as the number one radio station (among adults 25-54) is here. Virgin decided to just go with its weekly reach number without trying to rank itself.

Market share among Montreal francophones, based on Numeris data.

On the French side, CHMP-FM 98.5 remains the top-rated station by far among all ages 12+, but Radio-Canada’s ICI Première has climbed into second place, edging out Rythme FM. The trend line for Radio-Canada is impressive, taking a big jump in the fall of 2016 and continuing to improve. (Alain Gravel took over as morning show host on the station in the fall of 2015.)

Both adult contemporary stations Rythme FM (Cogeco) and Rouge (Bell) have declined significantly over the past two years, with Rouge falling from third place to fifth. Its major shakeup this fall, bringing in most of the on-air staff from sister station Énergie, hasn’t done much to help yet. (And since the top of that list was Éric Salvail, it’s not getting better soon.) CKOI and Énergie are about the same as they were two years ago in terms of share, with Énergie getting about the same number of francophone listeners as the three English-language music stations (dotted lines in the chart above).

Bell Media tried to polish the ratings turd as well as it could, crowing about how Énergie is the most improved francophone music station in Montreal, and how Rouge FM is … also the most improved? … actually how Rouge has seen the biggest gain in overall reach in the past six months, and how the drive-home show is best among women 25-54 despite “un mois d’octobre tumultueux.”

At the bottom of the chart (I’m excluding stations below 1%), RNC Media’s 91.9 Sports continues to slowly improve its numbers. This is the first time since it was a jazz station that it has kept the same format and brand for more than two years. And it looks like the city’s only French-language full-time sports station has finally found something that works.

The chart line for CJPX-FM Radio Classique stops this summer. The station was not included in the Numeris report, meaning that it has stopped subscribing to the service.

Still below 1% are Evanov’s CHRF 980 AM, Cogeco traffic station Circulation 730, and community station CIBL 101.5, which have average minute audiences of 900, 300 and 100, respectively.

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.

Former Mix 96 morning man Andre Maisonneuve dies, leaving radio community in mourning

Montreal’s radio community is in mourning this weekend, with the news that Andre Maisonneuve, the morning and afternoon host on Mix 96, has died of cancer.

The Ottawa Citizen has a story on Maisonneuve, speaking to his brother and a long-time friend.

Outside of Montreal, Maisonneuve was better known as “Katfish Morgan”, and for the past decade worked at Live 88.5 in Ottawa. The station, owned by Newcap Radio, posted a tribute to him on Saturday.

Maisonneuve worked in radio for 18 years before getting a gig here in his hometown, at stations in London, Ont., Calgary, Halifax and Toronto. In 1998, he was named the morning man at Mix 96, along with Ted Bird. A year later, Bird reunited with Terry DiMonte on CHOM and Maisonneuve was paired with Nat Lauzon. (They notably inaugurated their new show by driving a Zamboni to Toronto, which garnered them some media attention in small towns along the 401.)

Lauzon, who had also worked with Maisonneuve at Mix 99.9 in Toronto a couple of years earlier, took the news particularly hard. Even before he died, she had often shared cherished memories of the Andre and Nat show on her Facebook page.

I asked Lauzon for comment about her friend’s passing. She didn’t want to talk on the phone because of her fragile emotional state, so she wrote this to me instead:

In a terrible year where we have lost so many of the greats, I consider Andre among them.

Andre could do anything. He was that rare blend of uber-talented jock but with the kind of vulnerability that allowed listeners to know him as a person, too. He was warm, kind, interested, creative and genuinely, naturally funny. On the air, Andre would take you places that were silly and ridiculous, then grow them and explore them without fear. And if they bombed, so what? And if they were winners, so what? The joy was in getting there, the reward was in trying. He was never afraid to be the foil or take chances. But more so, he was happy to stand back and let you shine. He could trust a moment and let it breathe instead of filling it will noise. He knew how to work WITH people, on the air. He was a careful listener and built the moment instead of clamouring for punchlines. (I don’t need to tell any “radio person” how rare a quality this is.)

He was a master of voices, with an impressive and ever-expanding stable of impersonations and characters. In a radio age, where so many “bits” come packaged from prep services, we wrote our own. Because Andre could handle any special voice requirements those bits entailed — from impersonations to accents to singing … it was endless, often surprising even himself! We laughed. So much. Andre had a winning, engaging laugh.

What I’ve said here of course, is all radio-related and barely scratches the surface of who he was personally (and at one point, I hope to write more on that), but it’s not difficult to find echoes of these same sentiments from across the country, from folks who knew Andre at various points in his lengthy radio career.

Andre was my colleague, but he was also my big brother and my teacher and my friend. His is a huge loss to radio — but also to those who loved him. My heart breaks for his two amazing kids, who he was fiercely proud of. I am hardly alone in admitting that losing him has me roiling with grief and anger. Very simply, I adored him. I will love and miss him always.

Maisonneuve and Lauzon broke up (work-wise) in 2002 when the station’s lineup was shuffled and both moved to other parts of the day. He went back to the morning show in 2004, paired with Lisa Player. In 2005, Maisonneuve moved to Ottawa for the launch of Live 88.5 (CILV-FM) and became Katfish Morgan again. He stayed there until just recently, when his disease forced him off the air, though he didn’t publicize that fact.

The station’s tribute reads in part:

Andre was a great broadcaster, a tremendous team player and a fearless leader.

Andre gave birth to LiVE 88.5. He “lived life large” and he was an absolutely magnificent human being. He taught us all to live in and for the moment. All those that enjoyed the pleasure of his company on and off the air knew and felt that he was always “present.” We built an entire radio station on those very same principles.

Andre was a truly loyal friend to all who knew him. He had a real zeal and a “lust for life” like no one we have ever known.

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Virgin Radio brings in new talent, loses Lee Haberkorn

It was two years ago that Virgin Radio 96 had a silly idea to hold a contest to find a new on-air talent, and the winner was some bearded kid named Lee Haberkorn.

Since then, Haberkorn has become a regular at the station, most recently hosting weekend mornings but also being very active on social media, which he uses to post videos of him engaging in a prank war with afternoon host (and program director/boss) Mark Bergman.

So it was perhaps inevitable that he’d be moving on to better opportunities sooner than later. This month he left the station to join the new Virgin Radio in Kitchener, becoming their new morning man.

Haberkorn’s departure follows that of Andrea Collins, who also left the station but stays in the Bell Media family.

Collins has been replaced in late mornings by perennial schedule-hole-filler Kelly Alexander, who now finally has a solid weekday job. Alexander’s weekend shift is being filled by a new import, Shannon Brooksbank, known on the air as Brooksy, who comes from Corus’s Jump 106.9 in Ottawa (where she worked with former Virgin host Tony Stark).

No replacement for Haberkorn’s weekend morning shift has been announced yet. So far the station has been filling weekend mornings with announcerless music.

Montreal radio ratings: The Beat gaining on Virgin

Numeris released its spring quarterly ratings report for metered markets this week, of which Montreal is one. The numbers for Montreal’s English market show little change from what we’ve seen for several years now: CJAD leads among all listeners, while Virgin Radio leads among adults age 25-54.

But digging a bit deeper into the numbers by Numeris and research from Bell Media Sales, there are a few things worth noting.

  • Virgin is losing young listeners. Among adults 18-34, Virgin dropped from 40% to 32%, putting it in a dead heat with The Beat.
  • CHOM is now #2 among adults 25-54. It’s tight, but CHOM edged out The Beat to take second place behind Virgin among this advertiser-friendly demographic. But only four percentage points separates Virgin (27%) from The Beat (23%)
  • Virgin is ahead because of men. Virgin and The Beat are neck and neck among women 25-54, but Virgin beats The Beat by five points among men 25-54. The Beat pulling ahead among women would be a big selling point to advertisers.
  • Mornings: Virgin dropped to third place from first in the 6am-10am time slot (adults 25-54). The Beat is well behind the three Bell Media stations, which may have been a factor in the station’s decision to drop Sarah Bartok.
  • Daytime: The Beat is still tops 9-5, but Virgin has dropped below CHOM in third place, losing between 20% and 30% of its average-minute audience since fall.
  • Afternoon drive: This was a good ratings book for Aaron Rand, who climbed CJAD into second from fourth in the 4-7pm block among adults 25-54. Not so great for Mitch Melnick and TSN 690, which lost 40% of its 25-54 audience since fall, probably at least in part because of the Canadiens’ poor season.
  • Weekends: Virgin is still way ahead here.

Naturally, both Virgin and The Beat declared victory, with The Beat boasting about its 2+ rating and high numbers from 9-to-5, and Bell Media boasting about Virgin’s 25-to-54 demo lead and the fact that it owns four of the five stations in this market.

More francophones than anglophones

Numeris’s charts split the audience into French and English markets, but Virgin, The Beat and CHOM all have more francophone listeners than anglophones. When you add up the two languages, these are the average-minute audiences for the stations in Montreal:

  • The Beat: 19,900 (8,800E + 11,100F)
  • Virgin: 17,100 (8,300E + 8,800F)
  • CJAD: 16,300 (15,100E + 1,200F)
  • CHOM: 14,800 (6,900E + 7,900F)
  • CBC Radio One: 3,700 (3,200E + 500F)
  • TSN 690: 2,000 (2,000E + 0F)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1,300 (800E + 500F)

And if you add in the French stations:

  • CHMP 98.5: 38,100 (500E + 37,600F)
  • Rythme FM: 36,500 (1,200E + 35,300F)
  • The Beat: 19,900 (8,800E + 11,100F)
  • Rouge FM: 18,900 (600E + 18,300F)
  • Virgin: 17,100 (8,300E + 8,800F)
  • CJAD: 16,300 (15,100E + 1,200F)
  • ICI Première: 15,300 (400E + 14,900F)
  • CKOI: 15,100 (700E + 14,400F)
  • CHOM: 14,800 (6,900E + 7,900F)
  • Énergie: 9,400 (500E + 8,900F)
  • CJPX Radio Classique: 5,600 (800E + 4,800F)
  • ICI Musique: 4,200 (100E + 4,100F)
  • CBC Radio One: 3,700 (3,200E + 500F)
  • 91.9 Sport: 2,400 (0E + 2,400F)
  • TSN 690: 2,000 (2,000E + 0F)
  • CBC Radio Two: 1,300 (800E + 500F)
  • CKAC Circulation: 300 (0E + 300F)
  • CHRF 980: 100 (0E + 100F)

 

Not only does The Beat have more listeners on average than any other anglophone station, it has more listeners on average than all but one of the francophone music stations as well. (Virgin can crow about its larger reach, breaking 2 million, but someone tuning in a minute or two a month isn’t very valuable, I’d think. And besides, The Beat has a slightly higher reach on a weekly basis among anglophones.)

CHMP 98.5 is still at the top, and its average minute audience of 38,100 continues to make it the most popular radio station not only in Montreal but in Canada. The highest-rated station in Toronto, CHFI-FM, has an overall AMA of 27,400. Most other markets don’t have a station above 10,000.

La Presse and the Journal de Montréal focused on drops for Radio-Canada’s ICI Première and morning man Alain Gravel, while Le Devoir picks a few highlights. La Presse notes that Paul Arcand at 98.5 has an average minute audience of 83,440 (and that’s down significantly), and that all 10 of the most listened-to shows on radio in Montreal are either at 98.5 or Rythme FM.

The news isn’t all bad for Radio-Canada, though. Its weekend evening show La soirée est encore jeune is its most popular among adults 25-54, beating even its weekday morning show.

At the bottom of the ratings, CKLX-FM, now 91.9 Sport, seems to be slowly finding its footing, going up from a 0.9% share to a 1.4% share in the past year. Radio Circulation CKAC is still down in the dumps, mainly because of its repetitive format that no one will listen to for more than a few minutes. But even if you judge it by its daily reach (how many people tune in for at least a minute a day), it’s pretty poor. More francophones will check in with CJAD once a day than this station.

And dead last again is CHRF 980 AM, which abandoned Radio Fierté last year after barely trying it out, and now seems to have adopted a French version of owner Evanov Radio’s Jewel easy-listening format. Its schedule shows it’s bringing back live morning and afternoon programming, and has a weekly show for the LGBT community on Saturday evenings. They’ll need more than that, and some serious marketing, if they hope to make a dent in the ratings.

Andrea Collins leaves Virgin Radio 96 for Toronto

Virgin's Andrea Collins

Andrea Collins, the Virgin Radio daytime host and occasional CTV fill-in weather presenter, is pulling up stakes and moving to Toronto after five years.

She made the announcement last week on social media, and today was her last day, which prompted a surprise sendoff from her coworkers.

Collins will be taking a job co-hosting the morning show on Virgin Radio 99.9 in Toronto, replacing Maura Grierson, who’s taking maternity leave. She’s also becoming the “iHeartRadio Canada ambassador” — in January, the U.S. radio brand signed a partnership with Virgin owner Bell Media.

She starts May 2, a few days before she turns 32.

Collins was hired by Virgin in 2011, after previous radio jobs in Winnipeg and Victoria, to replace Nat Lauzon, who bolted for The Beat. Then, after Cousin Vinny Barrucco did the same, she was moved to afternoon drive, becoming the first woman in this market to host an afternoon show solo at a music station. She later moved back to daytime when Mark Bergman went back behind a microphone.

When I profiled her for a Gazette feature in 2013, she described her career as a series of being in the right place at the right time. I think that downplays her talent, but there’s also some truth to it.

No announcement has been made about who will host from 9am to 1pm weekdays now (or maybe it was and I missed it, just like I missed this announcement more than a week ago). A job posting for on-air host at Virgin was made last week.

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Radio ratings: Virgin and The Beat are tied (so both declare victory)

Quarterly radio ratings from Numeris were released on Thursday. There aren’t any big surprises for the anglophone market. Overall, among all listeners age 2+, these are the average minute audiences from anglophones across the 24/7 week for the top 10 stations:

  1. CJAD: 15500 (29.6%)
  2. Virgin Radio 96: 8500 (16.2%)
  3. The Beat: 8500 (16.1%)
  4. CHOM: 6100 (11.7%)
  5. CBC Radio One: 3400 (6.5%)
  6. TSN 690: 2300 (4.4%)
  7. Rythme FM: 1200 (2.2%)
  8. Radio Classique: 900 (1.7%)
  9. CKOI: 700 (1.4%)
  10. CBC Radio Two: 700 (1.4%)

Little has changed from previous reports, but Virgin and The Beat are in a statistical tie, which meant they had to be creative to proclaim themselves #1.

Virgin stuck to the key age 25-54 demographic, and its slightly higher reach. (And Bell points out that CHOM is tied with The Beat for second place among adults 25-54.) The Beat, meanwhile, points out that it’s higher during the work day (both overall and among women 25-54), which has always been its strong point.

AM 980 is dead last

New in this ratings report is the inclusion of CHRF, the former Radio Fierté that now just identifies itself as AM 980 and airs music. The station, which abandoned its LGBT-themed programming less than a year after launching, is in last place among measured stations in both languages.

Among francophones, it has an estimated 100 listeners on average, a market share of 0.1%, and reaches 3,000 listeners a day. More francophones listen to TSN 690 or CJAD.

Among anglophones, its average audience and market share both read as zero, and it reaches 1,100 listeners in an average day.

The station has a lot of work to do if it’s going to attract an audience. It could start by having programming and telling people about it.

Owner Evanov Radio hasn’t announced what its plans are for the station, which has a standard commercial licence and isn’t tied to any format (though it must remain a French-language station).

Good news/bad news

Looking into the more detailed reports compiled by Bell Media and Cogeco Force Radio (via Infopresse), you can see strengths and weaknesses among the various stations. Some things of note:

  • CHOM’s morning show does much better with women than the rest of its schedule
  • CJAD’s ratings spike at 11pm during Joey Elias’s comedy show. It’s the most popular station at that hour among anglophones 25-54.
  • Virgin spikes during the morning show, while the Beat’s morning show has fewer listeners than daytime programming.
  • Mitch Melnick is still the high point of TSN 690, around 5pm weekdays.
  • Demographically, among anglophone commercial stations:
    • Most male: TSN 690
    • Most female: The Beat
    • Youngest: Virgin
    • Oldest: Radio Two
    • Richest: TSN 690
    • Poorest: Radio Two
  • Paul Arcand’s morning show on 98.5 FM is still the most popular thing on radio, with an average audience peaking above 35,000 listeners among adults 25-54, though Rythme FM’s weekend shows have about the same audience in that demo and Arcand’s numbers aren’t as high as they used to be. 98.5 is also tops during the afternoon drive period and in late evenings. Rythme FM is strongest during the work day.
  • Rouge FM’s audience dips noticeably during Isabelle Racicot’s lunchtime show, particularly among men. It also underperforms during the morning show and drive-home show.
  • Énergie 94.3 does poorly during the work day. It’s the only one among the big French stations whose peak is in the afternoon, thanks to Éric Salvail’s drive-home show.
  • CKOI has the second-strongest morning show, with Debout les comiques.
  • CKOI is now number one among adults 18-34.
  • 91.9 Sport’s best audience comes just after 3pm when Jean-Charles Lajoie starts his show. The station flatlines after 7pm when it runs repeat programming.
  • Rythme FM’s morning show does poorly among men, especially when compared to the rest of the day, which is very strong.
  • On weekends, from 9am to 9pm, Rythme FM blows away the competition. It has twice the audience of any other station in the middle of the day.
  • Radio Classique saw a modest ratings increase, now that it has new programming. It’s too early to tell if it’s significant (and if it will stay).
  • Demographically, among francophone stations:
    • Most male: Radio Circulation (84%)
    • Most female: Rouge FM (60%)
    • Youngest: Énergie
    • Oldest: Radio Classique
    • Richest: Énergie
    • Poorest: 91.9 Sport

New ratings book shows The Beat’s surprise gains disappear

In March, when Numeris last released its quarterly ratings, the numbers showed an unusual spike in listenership for The Beat 92.5 (CKBE-FM). It was several points above competitor Virgin Radio 96 and won in key demographics for the first time. For the station, it was a trend, a sign that changes including a new program director had brought more listening hours to them, and it was something that was likely to continue. For Virgin (CJFM-FM) and owner Bell Media, it was a fluke, a figure explained mainly by the fact that the rating period covered Christmas and The Beat tends to do better with Christmas music.

I said we’d know in the next ratings book which side was right. And in the numbers that came out from Numeris this month, it looks like it’s Bell.

What was a 5.7-point lead in overall (ages 2+) listening share has been cut by more than half to 2.1 points. The new numbers are more consistent with what The Beat has been showing over the past couple of years.

Not that this is such a horrible position to be in. It still leads overall (though both stations fall well behind CJAD among all anglophone listeners), and it has a larger reach than it did before. The station’s press release also points out that for the key advertiser-friendly demographic of adults 25-54, which has been mostly won by Virgin recently, The Beat is now better during the work day (9am to 5pm).

Bell Media’s press release, also republished below, notes that Virgin is top among anglos 25-54, and its morning and afternoon drive shows are “dominating” in those demos. And since Bell also owns all the other English-language commercial stations in Montreal, it notes that Bell Media overall has a 72.4% share among anglo listeners.

Among the other stations, there isn’t that much new. CJAD still dominates overall with a quarter of all anglo listening hours. TSN 690 had a good book, matching its spring 2014 share among all listeners thanks to a strong Canadiens playoff run. CBC Radio One is well within that range of 7-8.5% that it usually sits in. Radio Two had its worst rating in at least the past four years with a 1.5% share, though that could just as easily be statistical error as anything else.

Among francophone audiences, CHMP 98.5 still dominates, and The Beat barely edges Virgin in listening hours, though Virgin has the larger reach.

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The Beat beats Virgin: a fluke, or a turning point?

The quarterly radio ratings haven’t interested me much in a while, mainly because there’s few stations owned by even fewer owners, and the ranking never changes. People talk about a few extra listeners here and some demographic shift there, but overall it’s always the same: CJAD has the highest market share*, Virgin is No. 1 with adults 25-54, CHOM does best with men, and we ignore the fact that all three of those stations are owned by the same company.

This time though, there was a noticeable change. And it made a big difference. The Beat 92.5, which had been slightly ahead of Virgin Radio 96 in most reports the past two years but behind in the key demographics, shot ahead under both measures. Instead of them fighting it out at around 16% or 17% of the audience, The Beat had 20% and Virgin was under 15%.

That was enough to write a story for the Gazette and get the program directors on the record.

That wasn’t easy, mind you. Sam Zniber, who was hired last August at The Beat, flat-out refused to tell me what he thought contributed to the ratings increase, fearing his competitor would find out and copy him. He would only say it’s a team effort.

Mark Bergman at Virgin, meanwhile, did his best to put a positive spin on the ratings, pointing out that the station has a larger reach, and saying that because the measured period included December, the numbers biased in favour of The Beat.

That’s half true. Virgin’s market share does go down in the winter ratings period, but The Beat’s doesn’t spike during that period. And it wasn’t nearly this bad last winter, so it must be something else.

I listened to The Beat, trying to figure out what changed. Was it the announcers? No, because their lineup has been stable for the past year. Was it the amount of music? Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s lawsuit suggests a shift toward less time on air for announcers, and I’ve noticed that many breaks are very brief — like seven seconds brief. But studying the “recently played” lists of Virgin and The Beat, they play about the same number of songs per hour (about eight during peak hours when they have contests, traffic and other stuff, and about 13 an hour during off-peak hours).

The type of music played seems to have changed. Instead of just Katy Perry pop, it’s got more R&B, more dance. Its slogan “Montreal’s perfect mix” and describing itself as airing a “variety” of music make it seem more and more like The Beat of today is the Mix 96 of a decade ago.

Or maybe it’s a combination of factors — a new program director bringing in some new ideas, an experienced on-air staff (many of whom used to work at Virgin) keeping the audience loyal, a more popular mix of music, lots of contests and stunts to keep people engaged, a better-than-expected boost from Christmas music season, and a bit of luck.

We’ll know in three months (or maybe six) how sustainable this lead is. I suspect it won’t last long, but the trend (at least among 2+ audience) has clearly been in The Beat’s favour since it relaunched in 2011.

radioratings

* An earlier version of this post said CJAD had the “most listeners”. As a reader points out, if you count everyone who listens for at least a minute during a day or a measuring period, Virgin has more listeners. I’m more interested in the average, but for clarity I’ve referred instead to market share.

Wayne Bews let go from The Beat

Wayne Bews, hired only a year ago as general manager of The Beat, filling the role vacated by Mark Dickie, has once again fallen victim to corporate management deciding that a station doesn’t need its own general manager. Cogeco tells me that the position has been eliminated and his functions taken over by other people within the company.

Bews left his job at TSN 690 for similar reasons in the fall of 2013, though at least that time Bell got him a job at CTV Montreal.

Charli Paige is Virgin’s new evening announcer

Meanwhile, a new face at Virgin. Tony Stark’s old evening show has been given to Charli Paige, who comes from 101.3 The Bounce in Halifax, where she was Jillian Blinkhorn. Her show airs 6-11pm Mondays to Thursdays.

Stark, meanwhile, is in the middle of a contest at The Jump in Ottawa to find a morning co-host.

Tony Stark leaves Virgin Radio for Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa

Tony Stark

Tony Stark, the evening host at Virgin Radio 96, surprised his listeners Thursday by announcing that that was his last show and he’s leaving the station he’s worked at for four and a half years.

Stark didn’t say why he’s leaving, saying only that he’d make an announcement in a few weeks. This almost certainly suggests that he’s moving to another station that isn’t ready to announce his hiring yet.

My guess on that would be Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa, based on some circumstantial but telling evidence I’ve seen. The station recently announced a job opening for a morning show host, which would make sense. We’ll see if that’s true. Jump, CKQB-FM, was The Bear until a relaunch this spring under the management of Mark Dickie, the former general manager at The Beat in Montreal. It’s a mainstream top 40 station, and has a style similar to Virgin.

UPDATE (Nov. 24): As Neil points out in a comment below, Jump! 106.9 in Ottawa now lists Stark as its morning host. Corus sent out a press release Nov. 27 announcing the Stark hire. His show will be called JUMP! Mornings with Tony Stark and it begins Dec. 1.

Two years ago, Stark announced he was leaving Virgin for another job at a radio station in Halifax. But then he changed his mind and stayed in Montreal. He said the reconsideration was for “personal reasons” without elaborating.

Kelly Alexander has been shuffled over to Stark’s 6-11pm time slot at Virgin. Program Director Mark Bergman says he’ll be “searching the planet for the best possible person to fill this role” over the next few weeks.

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Nikki Balch leaves Virgin Radio for Hot 89.9 in Ottawa

Nikki Balch at Virgin's old Fort St. studio.

Nikki Balch at Virgin’s old Fort St. studio.

Virgin Radio 96 is looking for a new weekend personality. That’s because Nikki Balch is leaving the station, having accepted a job doing evenings at Hot 89.9 FM in Ottawa, a radio station owned by Newcap. There, she replaces David Cruise, who left to join the morning team at the relaunched Z95.3 in Vancouver (formerly Virgin Radio, but rebranded after Bell sold it to Newcap).

Balch’s first shift is Monday in Ottawa. Her last shift at Virgin was last Sunday. Until a replacement is found, Virgin’s schedule doesn’t list a host for the weekend morning show and Kelly Alexander is doing weekend afternoons.

“It’s just time for my next adventure,” Balch tells me. “I’ve had an amazing time in Montreal and at Virgin Radio and I love the station and the people! I’m going to be doing evenings on Hot 89.9 which I’m super excited about, I’ve always been a huge fan of the station! Plus I’m close enough to come back and enjoy the night life here. What more can a girl ask for?”

Balch has been at Virgin Radio in Montreal since 2011. Before that she was at what was then called Z103.5 in Halifax, where she grew up. She also worked briefly at K94.5 in Moncton.

At Virgin, she was a daytime host, doing early afternoons, then late mornings. But she got shuffled into a weekend job when Mark Bergman decided to put himself back on the air. Bergman tried to put a spin on the change, saying she remained full-time and would be doing interviews and web videos and stuff for the station, but it was hard to see it as an upward career move.

The move to Ottawa is definitely a step up, not only moving to a higher-profile position but to a top-rated radio station in a very competitive market about the same size as this one (about 800,000 anglos in each, though far fewer francophones). Hot 89.9 is beaten only by CBC Radio One in total anglo market share in Ottawa/Gatineau. She’ll have her work cut out for her keeping it that way.

Radio ratings: The Beat back above Virgin (but…)

Radio ratings March 2014

Total audience share for major ownership groups, winter 2013-14 (ages 2+). Cogeco Diffusion: 98.5 + Rythme FM + CKOI + The Beat + Radio Circulation; Bell Media: NRJ + Rouge FM + CJAD + CHOM + Virgin + TSN 690; CBC/Radio-Canada: CBC Radio One + CBC Radio Two + ICI Première + Espace musique; Other: CJPX Radio Classique + Radio X + non-reporting stations

One year after The Beat took a surprising lead over Virgin among all anglophone listeners, it has done so again. The latest BBM quarterly ratings report, released last week, shows The Beat with an 18.4% share among anglophones, slightly less than its record 18.6% in March 2013. That’s ahead of Virgin Radio at 15.1%.

When you factor in the francophone audience, where Virgin has a slight lead (4.1% vs. 3.9%), The Beat is still ahead overall, though just by a bit. This differs from last year, where Virgin had the lead among all listeners because it was stronger among francophones. The Beat last year had a 2.1% share among francophones, so there’s some significant improvement there.

What’s interesting about this jump back to number one (well, actually number two, behind CJAD) for The Beat is that it happened during the same time of the year last year, suggesting that there may be some seasonal aspect to it. Maybe The Beat has better Christmas music?

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Fall radio ratings: Any way you slice it, Virgin beats The Beat

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Virgin Radio ad on its website thanking listeners

Fall ratings for markets including Montreal came out on Thursday, and like they usually do, they showed nothing earth-shattering. Everything is pretty well where you expect them to be.

For the past few quarters, after the ratings report comes out, both Virgin Radio and The Beat make a big deal about how they did better than the other. This time, it was just Virgin crowing. And with good reason: by almost every metric, they have more listeners than their competitor.

Of course, with only five commercial stations, the English-language market in Montreal has plenty to go around. In any other large market, a 15% share would be enough to send champagne corks popping. But here, that’s fourth place out of five.

The numbers

Ratings period is always a penis-measuring contest, so let’s go ahead and whip ’em out.

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Shave to Save: Christine Long goes short for a cause

The new Christine Long.

The new Christine Long.

Well, she didn’t go all the way. They didn’t bring out the razors. And in fact, between her, her cameraman and her boss who were there, she’s still the one with the longest hair. But there’s no mistaking that Christine Long looks different today than she used to.

“Tomorrow mommy’s gonna look pretty scary,” Long told me on Halloween night, after taking her kids trick-or-treating. It was a joke, of course, there’s nothing scary here. And despite all the cracks directed at her, she didn’t feel nervous or worried at all. If anything, she was eager to get it done.

Long has been trying to shave her head for six years, she said. But being a TV reporter, her bosses had resisted allowing her to do so. She credited the fact that Virgin Radio and CTV are under common ownership with helping to push it toward happening. (Going over her boss’s head to new station manager Louis Douville might have also had an impact.)

Jed Kahane, CTV Montreal’s news director, had a slightly different history. Yes, they weren’t crazy about it in the past, but it was more the seriousness of the proposal this time that prompted them to finally agree.

Either way, CTV now has a reporter with a lot less hair.

“I was like, you know, I’d like to do more than write a cheque,” Long said of her decision to go along with it. As a CTV personality, she’s hosted plenty of events for cancer fundraisers and other charities, and she felt the need to give back in some tangible way.

And because she’s on TV, she wanted to show to women who are going through cancer treatment that there’s nothing wrong with having a bald head or a short head of hair.

Ultimately, she said, her goal is that women who have gone bald will feel less self-conscious about going out to the grocery store without a hat or a wig. She wants to normalize the look.

And so, she says she won’t be hiding her new hairstyle as it grows back, though she’ll be keeping her head warm and admits she loves hats.

The hair hasn’t been put to waste. It’s been donated to the CanDonate hair program, which creates free wigs for children under 16. Long said she hopes to follow the progress of her hair and talk to the child who receives it.

At least in the moments after it happened, Long was relieved more than anything else. She needed a haircut.

And she’s excited to see it grow back. “By Christmas, I’ll look like Justin Bieber.”

She’s promised her husband she’ll only do this once. Both of them seemed pretty sure she’d stick to that promise.

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The third option for TSN Radio 690

If you don’t want to read this really long post, you can get the short version in this story and this followup in The Gazette, and this story at Cartt.ca.

CRTC Quebec regional commissioner Suzanne Lamarre grills Bell on its plans for Montreal radio on Monday.

CRTC Quebec regional commissioner Suzanne Lamarre grills Bell on its plans for Montreal radio on Monday.

I’d thought about it. Some people had asked me about it. Others suggested it to the CRTC in their written submissions. And the CRTC asked Bell about it in a letter after it filed its application. But until Monday afternoon I didn’t think it was seriously an option that the commission might consider imposing.

Could the CRTC force Bell to keep CKGM (TSN Radio 690) and sell one of the other English-language Astral radio stations in Montreal, as a condition of approving the larger Bell-Astral deal?

Learning from the very negative public reaction from its initial proposal last year to turn CKGM into a French-language radio station, this time Bell is asking for an exception to the CRTC’s radio common ownership policy so it can keep it in English while still owning three other stations in the (currently) five-station market. This puts the commission in an awkward position if it accepts the purchase deal. Does it give the exception, giving one company control of four of five commercial stations and 75% of the commercial audience share? Or does it deny the exception, forcing Bell to sell the money-losing station to someone else who would most likely change its format? Bell convinced thousands of listeners that the former is better, putting together a Save TSN 690 petition and getting the same fans who were cursing its name months earlier to be suddenly singing its praises.

A background in common ownership

The CRTC’s common ownership policy, often incorrectly or incompletely explained, has two rules for radio:

  1. One company can’t own more than two AM stations and two FM stations in a single market
  2. One company can’t own more than three stations total in a market with fewer than eight commercial stations

French and English stations are considered in separate markets even if they share the same geographical area. Montreal’s English market, with only five commercial stations (though soon to be six) meets that second criteria, while the French market, with 11 commercial stations (soon to be 13 or even 14), doesn’t.

The policy is just that, a policy, and exceptions have been granted before. The most on-point one is one that was granted to Cogeco in 2010 that allowed it to keep three French FM stations in Montreal after it acquired most of the Corus Quebec network. This was allowed in exchange for Cogeco setting up the Cogeco Nouvelles radio news service, with CHMP 98.5 FM in Montreal as its flagship station. That station is now the highest-rated in Quebec. The second-highest-rated, CFGL (Rythme FM) 105.7, is also owned by Cogeco.

The irony here is that this request was strongly opposed by Astral Media (it even threatened legal action to stop it), it was supported by third parties because it would put Cogeco in a position to better compete with Astral, and Cogeco is a fierce opponent of the Bell/Astral deal because of increased concentration of ownership. (Cogeco hasn’t said much about the request for an exception, perhaps seeing how hypocritical it would look.)

Now Bell/Astral is using the Cogeco decision as a precedent to get the same treatment in English. Astral argues this should be an easier decision because unlike CHMP, CKGM is a money-losing station, its audience is tiny, and it’s on AM.

And Cogeco, the one company that you’d think would be most against allowing Bell to own four of the five stations in this market, is silent on the matter. Cogeco CEO Louis Audet told me on Wednesday after the company’s appearance before the CRTC that “we’ve kept away from that” and “it’s up to the commission to decide.”

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