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The Beat declares victory after summer ratings surge

Following today’s publication of Numeris’ Summer 2016 results, The Beat 92.5 maintains its ranking as Montreal’s #1 Music Station! The Beat is not only the number one English-language music station among radio listeners of all ages, but it is now is now the Number one RADIO station in the most important demos, Adults 25-54 and Females 25-54!

This was the beginning of a very self-congratulatory press release from 92.5 The Beat on Thursday after learning they had finally beaten competitor Virgin Radio 96 not only overall but among their key demographics.

It’s good news for the station that on Tuesday celebrated its fifth anniversary. But we’ve seen this kind of surge from The Beat before, so it’s too early to tell if the tide has really turned.

What the ratings actually say

As readers of this blog are well aware, there are a lot of ways to play with ratings numbers to claim to be number one. In the case of The Beat, it means ignoring the French market entirely, and ignoring the top-rated English station in the market, CJAD. At which point you’re down to three commercial stations.

The top-line ratings results are posted on Numeris’s website. Here’s what they show:

Montreal anglo market (797,000 people), all ages, May 30 to Aug. 28, 2016:

Callsign Brand Share AMA Daily reach AMA Change from spring AMA Change from last summer
CJAD CJAD 800 26.4% 13,400 170,800 -11% -8%
CKBE-FM The Beat 92.5 19.2% 9,800 211,200 +11% +7%
CJFM-FM Virgin Radio 96 16.3% 8,300 207,300 0 -6%
CHOM-FM CHOM 97.7 12.9% 6,600 145,800 -4% +5%
CBME-FM CBC Radio One 6.2% 3,100 43,500 -3% -6%
CFGL-FM Rythme FM 3.0% 1,500 51,800 +25% +25%
CKGM TSN Radio 690 2.9% 1,500 40,500 -25% -17%
CBM-FM CBC Radio Two 1.6% 800 19,100 0 +14%
CITE-FM Rouge FM 1.3% 700 31,200 +17% +17%
CJPX-FM Radio Classique 1.3% 700 19,200 -12% +17%
CKOI-FM CKOI 1.0% 500 37,000 +43% 0

Other stations have shares below 1%.

Montreal franco market (2,738,000 people), all ages, May 30 to Aug. 28, 2016:

Callsign Brand Share AMA Daily reach AMA Change from spring AMA Change from last summer
CFGL-FM Rythme FM 20.5% 37,300 687,000 -1% +10%
CHMP-FM 98,5 fm 17.0% 31,000 484,700 -18% -13%
CITE-FM Rouge FM 11.9% 21,700 376,400 +19% -15%
CKOI-FM CKOI 10.1% 18,400 480,600 +28% +16%
CJFM-FM Virgin Radio 96 7.0% 12,700 414,300 +44% +23%
CKBE-FM The Beat 92.5 7.0% 12,700 400,200 +14% +23%
CBF-FM ICI Première 6.6% 12,000 224,700 -19% -22%
CHOM-FM CHOM 97.7 5.7% 10,400 316,800 +32% +68%
CKMF-FM Énergie 5.3% 9,600 344,600 +8% -16%
CBFX-FM ICI Musique 2.1% 3,900 82,800 -5% -18%
CJPX-FM Radio Classique 2.0% 3,700 86,100 -33% -36%
CKLX-FM 91.9 Sport 1.3% 2,400 50,600 0 +242%
CJAD CJAD 800 0.7% 1,200 37,500 0 +50%
CKAC Radio Circulation 0.3% 500 47,200 +67% 0
CBME-FM CBC Radio One 0.3% 500 15,500 0 +67%
CBM-FM CBC Radio Two 0.2% 300 26,100 -40% -70%
CHRF AM 980 0.0% 100 3,800 0 N/A
CKGM TSN Radio 690 0.0% 0 3,400 0 -100%

AMA means average minute audience, the average number of people who will be tuning into a station during any minute of a 24-hour day.

Daily reach refers to how many listeners will tune into a station for at least one minute during the average day.

Comparisons to spring (Feb. 29-May 29) and last summer (June 1-Aug. 30, 2015) are here for reference. I’d pay more attention to the year-over-year change than the change over spring, since summer ratings tend to go down particularly for non-music stations. And don’t read too much into the percentage changes for stations lower on the chart. The higher margin for error exaggerates the amplitude of the changes.

Listener boycotts had no effect on The Beat

The Beat has reason to be happy, being higher among anglophones than it was both last spring and last summer. But the big win is in the adults 25-54 and women 25-54 demographics, which it had consistently lost to rival Virgin, even while it had a larger audience overall.

“Today’s milestone results are the product of great teamwork and proof that our audience likes the changes we made to the schedule,” GM Luc Tremblay says in the press release. This is in reference to moving Cat Spencer to afternoons and Cousin Vinny to mornings, but left unsaid is that listener anger to the dropping of Kim Sullivan and Sarah Bartok hasn’t resulted in a drop in ratings. The Beat says its 25-54 audience for the morning show went up 35%.

The news isn’t all bad for Virgin and Bell Media. Virgin’s audience is up among francophone listeners (though just like last summer it’s exactly tied with The Beat for audience among francophones), and CHOM has much more franco listeners. Plus, of course, Bell Media owns four of the five commercial stations in the market.

More importantly, we’ve seen this before. During the winter of 2014-15, The Beat and Virgin had similar numbers relative to each other. The Beat’s program director said the station expected to continue to improve. Virgin’s said it was because it covered the Christmas period when The Beat does better with its Christmas music. The next ratings period, Virgin was back on top.

The next ratings period will tell us if this was another fluke. But The Beat has been consistently higher than Virgin in the overall ratings, and this ratings period was as far from Christmas as you can get.

Franco market: Rythme, CKOI see gains

On the francophone side, Rythme FM climbed above 98.5 FM to the top spot. Expect this to be temporary as 98.5’s A team comes back to work and so do the politicians whose activities fuel news-talk stations. (And besides, both stations are owned by Cogeco, so it’s not exactly a huge competition.)

CKOI is getting more respectable numbers than it used to. Not so long ago it was in the gutter, being outperformed by the anglo music stations among francophones. Now it’s well ahead of them, even nipping at the heels of #2 music station Rouge FM. We’ll see if that keeps up.

91.9 Sport is holding its own, with more than three times the audience it had last summer before the format change and equal to what it had in the spring (when presumably there was more sports to talk about). But its market share is still low, and it might need more to be viable as a talk station.

CHRF, the station that was supposed to be Radio Fierté and is now airing easy-listening music and some miscellaneous programming, is still stuck within the margin of error.

The Beat swaps morning, afternoon drive hosts


The Beat 92.5 is continuing its summer of transformation. On Monday morning, it announced that it’s moving Cat Spencer to afternoon drive and Cousin Vinny Barrucco to mornings. The changes take effect immediately.

Vinny will be joined in the mornings by co-host Nikki Balch, who has returned to Montreal after leaving Virgin Radio two years ago, as well as Stuntman Sam and Kim Kieran on news and traffic. Kieran is also moving to mornings from afternoons, replacing the departing Natasha Hall.

Spencer seemed excited about the change, even though morning host is traditionally the most prestigious of the radio jobs. (The 9-to-5 workday shifts are The Beat’s highest rated.) Spencer’s on-air time isn’t only reduced to two hours a day, but four days a week, Mondays to Thursdays. He’s joined by Claudia Marques on traffic.

Spencer explained on the air that he had planned to do mornings for five years when he joined The Beat in 2011, and wanted to move to afternoon drive and have his mornings back.

The rest of the schedule is unchanged. Donna Saker does 9am to 1pm, Christin Jerome does 1pm to 5pm, and Jeremy White takes over at 7pm. Rob Kemp and Nat Lauzon do weekend mornings and afternoons, respectively.

The changes (which also include new headshots for everyone) come less than two months after The Beat brought in a new station manager, Luc Tremblay. Tremblay, who had been working at La Presse+ since 2012, will also act as program director, replacing interim PD Martin Tremblay.

Ken Connors leaves The Beat to take over weekend mornings on CJAD

Ken Connors

Ken Connors

Along with the news that Natasha Hall is hanging up her microphone for another mysterious job opportunity, The Beat 92.5 is also losing assistant program director Ken Connors. He made the announcement after the fact on Facebook Friday:

Connors has been with Corus/Cogeco for 11 years, and like Hall was one of the people who worked at AM 940 before that.

UPDATE (July 18): As expected, Bell Media has announced that Connors is taking over as host of the weekend morning show on CJAD, replacing the retiring Dave Fisher. Connors will also co-host the Home Improvement Show with Jon Eakes and the CJAD 800 Trivia Show.

UPDATE (Aug. 6): Connors was interviewed on CTV Montreal about his new job.

Natasha Hall leaving The Beat

Natasha Hall, Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan.

Natasha Hall, Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan in their Beat gear at this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade.

I’m thinking this picture might be cursed. Three of The Beat’s female personalities in pretty cool-looking purple coats, and within months they all leave the station.

Unlike Sarah Bartok and Kim Sullivan, though, Natasha Hall’s departure is voluntary. She’s leaving for another job, though she wouldn’t say what it is exactly. But she seems pretty excited about it.

Hall’s job, doing news and traffic for the morning show, was posted by Cogeco Media, open for only a week and a half, suggesting they may already have someone in mind to fill it.

The station declined to comment on Hall’s departure.

Cogeco also posted the assistant program director job at The Beat, to replace the also-departing Ken Connors. The job posting doesn’t include any on-air duties. It’s interesting to be hiring a new assistant PD because the program director job is still being filled on an interim basis by Martin Tremblay.

UPDATE (July 22): Kim Kieran, currently doing afternoon traffic in addition to promotions work, has won Hall’s former job. She starts Aug. 15.

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.

The Beat drops Sarah Bartok

Sarah Bartok, left, and Kim Sullivan representing The Beat at this year's St. Patrick's Parade on March 20. The station has since told both of them it no longer requires their services.

Sarah Bartok, left, and Kim Sullivan representing The Beat at this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade on March 20. The station has since told both of them it no longer requires their services.

Seems the cost-cutting at 92.5 The Beat isn’t over.

Shortly after dropping program director Sam Zniber and afternoon drive co-host Kim Sullivan, the news dropped this morning of the highest-profile dismissal yet: Sarah Bartok, co-host of the morning show, is no longer at the station.

She made the announcement on Facebook in a since-deleted post.

Sarah Bartok won't be waving this flag any more.

Sarah Bartok won’t be waving this flag any more.

Her name was being scrubbed from the station’s website on Wednesday (I’m told by a source in the know that she’s still an employee until her contract ends at the end of August), but already fans are sending messages to the station on social media, outraged at the cut, with some vowing to boycott. (It would not be the first time people have made such a threat against a Montreal radio station for firing a well-liked host, and will probably have the same effect.)

I wrote a short story about the decision for the Montreal Gazette, which has prompted more than 100 comments on Facebook.

The Toronto-born Bartok joined the morning show six years ago, when the station was still The Q and her co-host was Aaron Rand. It was also after it dropped Tasso and Suzanne from its morning show, a decision that also prompted outrage.

Bartok was profiled last year by the Montreal Gazette’s Phil Carpenter as part of his Before Dawn series:

UPDATE (June 3):

Meanwhile, this is how The Beat is responding to dozens of angry posts on its Facebook page:

I don’t know what “circumstances outside our control” is supposed to mean.

UPDATE (July 25): Another Facebook post from Bartok:

UPDATE (Aug. 2): Bartok has moved back to Toronto and now has a website as she looks for her next gig.

Kim Sullivan’s post-Beat career begins with The Checklist

Kim Sullivan hosts The Checklist

Kim Sullivan hosts The Checklist

It was a little more than 10 years ago, and Kimberley Sullivan, a kid from Sorel with degrees in psychology and education, wanted to do something that had nothing to do with either of those things: Be a broadcaster.

“I wanted to do media, and my father said if you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” she explained to me in an interview.

So she got a job doing traffic reports for the Astral Media radio stations in Montreal, and hosted a show on Virgin Radio. She quit her job, taking a severe pay cut, to follow her dream. Her career later took her to Winnipeg, then Ottawa, and back to Montreal, where three years ago she was hired at 92.5 The Beat, first doing evenings, then co-hosting afternoon drive with Cousin Vinny.

That gig ended this month when she was let go due to budget cuts.

But rather than spending her days shoving her face in a bucket of Häagen Dazs (though I suppose she could do that too if she wanted), Sullivan is busy promoting her new show on MAtv, about people trying things they’ve never done before but always wanted to.

It’s called The Checklist, and its official premiere is tonight at 9:30pm (though the first episode has already aired in other time slots). The 10-episode half-hour show invites a guest from the public (from among submissions sent through social media) to do something interesting, exciting and, above all, that looks good on television.

The show is similar to one she did for Rogers TV in Ottawa called “Before I Kick The…”, with the big difference being that she’ll experience these activities with someone else rather than by herself. “I wanted it to be other people, not just about me,” she said. “What I loved most about this show is seeing the emotions of others.”

Kim Sullivan jet-boating on the St. Lawrence with participant Michael Saragossi in the first episode of The Checklist.

Kim Sullivan jet-boating on the St. Lawrence with participant Michael Saragossi in the first episode of The Checklist.

Among those activities: jet boating, glass making, skydiving, riding in a helicopter, and having tea at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. There are 18 activities in all in those 10 episodes.

Sullivan said she intentionally avoided calling the show The Bucket List, partly to get away from the whole death thing (for the record, Sullivan has no plans to die any time soon, and neither do her guests), and partly because the things they’re doing in this show aren’t really “bucket list” items. “Bucket list is Taj Mahal,” she said. But this show is more about getting people to experience things around town they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“Everybody has something they want to do and haven’t taken the time to do it,” she explained. Even her. “I live two streets down from Moishe’s, and I’ve never been. I totally thought i was the type of person who did everything I want to do, and obviously I don’t.”

The Checklist got the green light last July and started filming in August. It was too late for the fall 2015 schedule, when MAtv first launched anglo programming. The plan was to launch the show in January, but Sullivan said that was a bit silly considering how many of these activities are outdoors in the summer. So they waited until May.

Because the show is on MAtv, it’s only available to people who subscribe to Videotron cable or Videotron’s Illico Club Unlimited streaming service.

It’s uncertain if this project will go beyond these 10 episodes. Sullivan noted that she’s a “media professional”, and it’s unclear if that means she can propose and host a TV show on MAtv and have it considered as “access programming” under the CRTC’s definition. When the CRTC came down against MAtv last year, it discounted some shows hosted by professional media personalities, many of them associated with Videotron parent company Quebecor. The commission’s decision doesn’t give clear guidelines for determining whether the person proposing a show is really from “the community” instead of the industry.

The Checklist airs:

  • Mondays 3pm
  • Wednesdays 11am
  • Thursdays 9:30pm
  • Fridays 3:30am
  • Saturdays 3:30pm
  • Sundays 1:30pm and 7:30pm

Also new: Black Wealth Matters

Also debuting tonight, half an hour before The Checklist, is Black Wealth Matters, a documentary series about economic matters in the black community. It’s produced by Henri Pardo, who was also behind StartLine, a show about local businesses in food, arts and multimedia.

Black Wealth Matters airs:

  • Mondays 11:30am
  • Tuesdays 3pm
  • Wednesdays 8am
  • Thursdays 9pm
  • Fridays 3am
  • Sundays 12:30am and 7pm

Further reading

Rob Kemp to host weekend mornings on The Beat

Rob Kemp

Half a year after being let go from CHOM as part of a larger bloodletting at Bell Media, Rob Kemp has landed at Cogeco’s 92.5 The Beat, where he’ll be in the company of many others he used to work in the same building with.

The Beat made the announcement Friday morning, saying he’ll be hosting the weekend morning show, 6-9am, “throughout the summer.” No specific start date is mentioned, but it’s “soon.”

Shaun McMahon, who hosts that show now, will be filling in on other parts of the schedule as everyone takes vacation.

But what about after the summer, when there’s less need for vacation fill-in? No word on that. Promotions Director Stéphanie Lagacé says they’re just focused on summer right now.

Then again, since they don’t know who the program director is going to be this fall, it makes sense not to think too far ahead.

Kemp is hardly the first person to leave Bell Media Radio’s home of 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (or Astral’s 1410 Fort St. before it) to move to Cogeco’s HQ in Place Bonaventure. The station has a habit, it seems, of stealing or picking up people from the other guy (particularly people at Virgin Radio). Among them:

  • Morning host Cat Spencer (poached from Virgin)
  • Afternoon drive host Cousin Vinny Barrucco (poached from Virgin)
  • Evening host Kim Sullivan (Virgin alum hired by The Beat after stints in Winnipeg and Ottawa)
  • Weekend host Nat Lauzon (poached from Virgin as she transitioned to part-time work)
  • Pete Marier (took on weekend work at The Beat after a contract dispute with CHOM, now works at Boom FM in Ottawa)
  • Murray Sherriffs (hired by The Beat after CJFM let him go as part of the Mix 96/Virgin Radio transition, let go three years later)
  • Interim Program Director Martin Tremblay (was formerly executive producer with NRJ/Rouge FM in Montreal)
  • General Manager Wayne Bews (former TSN 690 GM shuffled into CTV job when that position was eliminated, hired by The Beat until that position was eliminated as well)

Cogeco lays off The Beat program director Sam Zniber as it plans corporate reorganization

Sam Zniber, who was brought in almost two years ago to manage programming at The Beat 92.5, is no longer employed by the station.

Cogeco Media President Richard Lachance says the company (which recently changed its name from Cogeco Diffusion) is undergoing a corporate reorganization, and “Mr. Zniber did not form part of that plan.”

Staff was told about Zniber’s departure on Monday, without being given much of an explanation for it. According to one Beat staff member, he was supposed to be coming back to work after a sick leave.

Zniber could not be reached for comment.

Martin Tremblay, who used to be part of the management team at Astral/Bell Media’s Montreal radio stations, will continue in as interim program director for now, Lachance said. Though Zniber’s departure was only recently made official, Tremblay has been interim program director since early March.

Lachance rebuffed several of my attempts to explain the nature of the corporate reorganization, whether it would result in fewer managers, or whether The Beat would continue to have its own management. Lachance said he did not want to discuss the plans before they are announced to staff, which he said should be done within the next month.

Zniber was a surprise choice for PD in 2014, since he had no experience in the Montreal market or even in Canadian radio. He had worked in France, the UK, Australia, and Miami. This was his eighth job since 2000, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Zniber’s legacy at The Beat is mixed. During the 2014-2015 winter ratings period, the station jumped to a surprise 20% market share, well ahead of direct competitor Virgin Radio, which it had long trailed. Zniber told me he expected the station to continue to outperform its competitor, while the Virgin/Bell Media folks said The Beat’s ratings spike was due to running Christmas music in December and they’d come back down. The next ratings book proved Bell right, but Virgin and The Beat remain neck and neck in the ratings overall.

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.


* 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.

Jeremy White returns to The Beat

Jeremy White

It seems Tony Stark isn’t the only one going home. Jeremy White, the radio kid from Kahnawake who left The Beat for Virgin Radio in Edmonton earlier this year, is coming home to his old overnight shift.

Did things not work out in Edmonton? It wasn’t that, White tells me, but rather he just wanted to come back home:

Everything was great in Edmonton! The station, the company, the people. Some of the nicest folk I’ve ever met and will definitely remain friends with as well as some amazing times I won’t soon forget!

I’ll be 100% honest cause there’s no reason to lie and I’m sure there’s some younglings reading this that can learn something. I got to a point where I realized I wasn’t ready for the distance. I made the move at 19 years old thinking I was ready to take on the world, I wasn’t. And I have no shame in admitting that. I’m extremely close to my family, my little brother is 12 years old and he needs his big brother around.

(Beat Program Director) Sam Zniber got in touch with me at literally the perfect time as I was going to hand in my resignation at the end of August, I wanted to give Virgin at least three months and another ratings period cause I’m not one to just jet without notice. I’ve known of Sam for a while through some mutual friends and it was a shock to actually to hear from him! This is a world renowned radio guru. I’m extremely excited to get back on The Beat and soak up every piece of knowledge Mr. Zniber has to offer!

I actually announced my departure from Virgin Edmonton the day after Tony Stark announced he was leaving Virgin Montreal, you can only imagine the amount of messages I got asking when I was starting on Virgin Montreal! Which obviously isn’t the case, was never even on the table actually.

It’s going to be nice being back on The Beat, when Leo (Da Estrela, Zniber’s predecessor) gave me my one show a week when I was 17 years old on a Wednesday night, I never would have thought all this would happen.

I’m going to learn from all of this, stay humble and continue to learn the ways of the biz to master my craft. Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about this industry. Eddie Van Halen once said, “You don’t play music, you live it!” Radio isn’t something you do, it’s something you live! And I thank Andre St-Amand and Sam for allowing me to continue to my dream.

It’s not often I see that kind of honesty from a radio personality. White, who’s now 20, is still very young for what he’s accomplished so far in his career. And he wouldn’t be the first radio personality to sacrifice some career advancement to stay in Montreal.

White’s first shift back is Sunday-night-to-Monday. He takes the place of Thom Drew and Jimmy James Spencer, who have apparently been let go.

“Sadly my time at The Beat here in Montreal is done,” Spencer posted on Facebook on Nov. 20. “It was a great run (mostly) So onward and upwards and all that.” He’s currently looking for work and has posted airchecks here.

The Beat cancels Anne-Marie Withenshaw’s All Access Weekend (and she’s suing over it)

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Anne-Marie Withenshaw filed a lawsuit against Cogeco Diffusion in Quebec Superior Court this week.

Listeners to 92.5 The Beat may have noticed that it’s no longer broadcasting its weekly All Access Weekend show with Anne-Marie Withenshaw, and that all evidence of her has been wiped from the station’s website.

Now we know that the station has decided to cancel the show as part of an apparent new direction in programming that involves on-air personalities being heard less and less. But what makes this story different from every other radio-personality-is-fired stories is that she’s responding with a lawsuit.

I explain the details of the suit in this story in the Montreal Gazette. Essentially, she and her company Killer Queen Productions are alleging that the station strung her along under false pretences after her contract expired at the end of August, making her believe they would renew her contract in order to prevent her from jumping to another station.

That allegation hasn’t been proven in court, and station owner Cogeco Diffusion will have a chance to present a defence.

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The Beat shuffles Connors, McMahon, Kieran to new jobs

Ken Connors, left, has been promoted to assistant PD, and Shaun McMahon, right, is taking his place on weekends, leaving Vinny Barrucco, centre, with a new partner.

Ken Connors, left, has been promoted to assistant PD, and Shaun McMahon, right, is taking his place on weekends, leaving Vinny Barrucco, centre, with a new partner.

The bromance is over.

A month after appointing Sam Zniber as program director, 92.5 The Beat (CKBE-FM) has made weekend morning man Ken Connors the assistant PD, and has moved Shaun McMahon from the afternoon drive show to weekend mornings to replace him.

McMahon broke the news on Facebook, where he and afternoon drive host “Cousin” Vinny Barrucco had been playing up their “bromance” since they were put together.

“So… the #BROMANCE is on hold for now,” McMahon says.

Sliding into his slot as the afternoon traffic reporter is Kim Kieran, who said on Facebook she was “beyond excited” about the new position. Kieran did traffic at The Beat in the mornings while Natasha Hall was on maternity leave. Here she is reading 50 Shades of Grey.