Tag Archives: CKBE

Posted in Radio

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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Posted in My articles, Radio

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.

Posted in Radio

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.

Posted in My articles, Radio

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.

Posted in Radio

The Beat appoints Sam Zniber as new program director

The Beat announced this morning that “veteran radio executive” Sam Zniber has been hired as the new program director for 92.5 The Beat, effective immediately.

Zniber replaces Leo Da Estrela, who decided almost a year ago that he wanted to leave the job and focus on his side business providing custom radio stations for businesses. Da Estrela was supposed to leave this spring, but stuck around on a part-time basis to help with the transition. His last day is Friday, he says.

Zniber, whose resume is posted on his website, has no apparent previous connection to Montreal, having spent most his career in Europe.

The memo announcing his hiring is copied below:

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Jeremy White moves from The Beat to Edmonton’s Virgin Radio

Jeremy White at The Beat's first anniversary party in 2012. That's CJ over his shoulder.

Jeremy White at The Beat’s first anniversary party in 2012. That’s CJ over his shoulder, and “hot fan girl” Amanda Kline on his arm.

As The Beat’s staff and selected guests were celebrating the station’s first anniversary under its new brand, I chatted with its general manager, Mark Dickie, and its program director Leo Da Estrela. Among the topics we discussed over the loud music was this guy, Jeremy White, an enthusiastic young personality out of Kahnawake who impressed his bosses with his work ethic.

If The Beat’s competitor had any sense, they told me, they’d have stolen White away from them and given him a job at CHOM.

They asked me to keep that to myself, since they didn’t want Astral to actually steal White away from them.

But now Dickie has moved on to another job, Da Estrela is preparing for his own departure, and White has finally been stolen by Bell Media.

The only catch is he won’t be working in Montreal.

Virgin Radio Edmonton announced on Wednesday that White has been hired as their evening host starting March 31. White relayed the news via social media early Thursday while he was still on the air at The Beat. He’s already overhauled his Twitter account with the new job info.

White has another week at The Beat before moving west.

The new job is a step up from his current one doing overnights at The Beat. (He briefly got bumped up to doing the evening job at the Beat after Paul Hayes left, to “give him some prime-time exposure,” and got bumped back when they hired Kim Sullivan. White also hosts the Saturday Party Jam on Saturday evenings.)

CFMG-FM bills itself as “Edmonton’s #1 Hit Music Station,” but it actually has just a 3.9% overall share, behind The Bear (rock), CFCW (country), The Bounce (CHR), Sonic (hot AC), K97 (classic rock), CISN (country), Up 99.3 (AC), Hot 107 (top 40), Cruz FM (adult hits), Fresh FM (hot AC), Now (hot AC) and Capital FM (classic hits), plus talk station CHED and CBC Radio One.

In short, it has a lot of work to do.

As you would expect, White says he’s excited about the new job, but will find it hard to leave Montreal.

Just add his address to the monthly shipment of smoked meat, bagels and poutine to Montreal expats in Alberta.

Posted in Montreal, Radio

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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Wayne Bews hired as general manager at The Beat

Wayne Bews, the long-time general manager at Team 990 (then TSN Radio 690), until he was moved into a sales job at CTV Montreal, has been hired to become the new general manager and general sales manager at 92.5 The Beat.

The news was announced on Wednesday to the staff at CTV Montreal and The Beat. Bews replaces Mark Dickie, who left the station a month ago to work for Corus as general manager of its Cornwall and newly-acquired Ottawa stations.

Bews, who by all accounts was well-liked by the staff at CKGM, guided the struggling station as it finally made one format stick. By the time he left last fall, it was still struggling, but had a loyal audience and solid footing, and secured a guaranteed lifeline thanks to parent company Bell’s acquisition of Astral Media.

But it was that same acquisition that pushed Bews out of that job. Last August, Chris Bury was made program director for both CJAD and TSN Radio, and within weeks Bews had found another job within the company as the retail sales manager at CTV Montreal.

Bews started his career as a sales representative for CHOM and CKGM, back when both were owned by CHUM. He’s spent 20 years in this market selling radio advertising and managing radio stations.

He’ll start in his new job in early March. The exact date hasn’t been set yet. CTV Montreal staff were told that he would be helping general manager Louis Douville transition to a replacement, which is interesting since he’s moving to one of Bell’s chief competitors.

Posted in My articles, Radio

The Beat loses three key managers

The Beat's general manager Mark Dickie, left, and program director Leo Da Estrela at the station's one-year anniversary party in 2012. Both are leaving the station.

The Beat’s general manager Mark Dickie, left, and program director Leo Da Estrela at the station’s one-year anniversary party in 2012. Both are leaving the station.

When word started to spread that the top two people at The Beat had resigned, many came to a quick conclusion: Cogeco is cleaning house, maybe in response to unsatisfactory ratings, or because, one rumour went, they were planning to sell the station.

As it turns out, everyone involved says it’s just a coincidence. Really bad timing.

Last Friday, general manager and general sales manager Mark Dickie informed his bosses that he was resigning in order to accept a position as a manager of multiple radio stations at Corus Entertainment. Because he was leaving for a competitor, even though it wasn’t in the same city, his three weeks’ notice was waived and he was asked (politely) to leave the building, though neither he nor Cogeco Diffusion have any hard feelings. Staff were informed of his departure on Monday.

Leo Da Estrela, the program director, has been named interim general manager. But he, too, is leaving. He actually informed his bosses in September that he wanted to leave, but he was asked to stay on until December. With Dickie’s departure, he’s been asked (and accepted) to stay on until April to ensure a smooth transition to new managers.

At the same time, promotions director Linda Fraraccio is also leaving The Beat. This Friday was her last day at the station, and she starts a new job at CTV Montreal as manager of creative services, marketing and community relations, on Monday.

I write about the three departures in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette. It includes comments from Dickie, Da Estrela and Cogeco Diffusion President Richard Lachance.

Here’s some more detail about what’s going on:

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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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The Beat puts CJ in the big chair, eases Donna Saker’s workload

Christin Jerome is now the early-afternoon host at The Beat

Christin Jerome is now the early-afternoon host at The Beat

Radio is a tough business, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how many hours you put in or how much experience you have or how eager you are when it comes to choosing who gets the big jobs.

But sometimes it does. And so Christin Jerome, better known to The Beat’s listeners as CJ, is getting a more high-profile role, becoming the host of the early afternoon show on the station. She takes over for Donna Saker, whose shift is being shortened to just mid-mornings.

“When we launched the station (as The Beat), we didn’t have the intention of her doing 2.5 years at that shift,” program director Leo Da Estrela tells me. “At the back of our minds we knew it wasn’t going to last forever. We were really stretching her to the limit.”

Jerome filled in on the afternoon drive show as the station waited for Cousin Vinny’s contractual obligations to Virgin Radio to expire last year. She also filled in for Saker while she was away.

“We always got good feedback with her on the air,” Da Estrela said. “You could see her doing better and better every day.”

Jerome has been a fixture at the station for many years. Her previous role was side-kick to Vinny on the afternoon drive show, doing traffic. That role is now being taken up by Shaun McMahon. “It gave us an opportunity to give Shaun space, a good opportunity to elevate everybody’s game,” Da Estrela said.

The move was made on Nov. 25, about two weeks before the latest ratings report came out showing The Beat’s daytime shows losing a significant chunk of its audience among young adults and losing ground to competitor Virgin Radio.

Needless to say, Jerome is thrilled about the new status. “It’s been a great experience so far,” she said. “I think we all give (Da Estrela) credit for recognizing our versatility and believing in us. Too often, radio PDs typecast their team. The traffic reporter never gets a crack at anything else. The swing or overnight announcer never gets a shot at working days. Leo isn’t that program director.”

Just be careful with that chance, because it can be fleeting. This is radio, after all.

Posted in Radio

CRTC approves power increases for 98.5FM, The Beat

Existing (purple lines) and approved (black lines) coverage areas of CKBE-FM 92.5, as prepared by SpectrumExpert. The map for CHMP-FM 98.5 is identical.

More than a year and a half after they were first published, the CRTC has approved applications from Cogeco Diffusion to increase the power of two of its stations on Mount Royal: CHMP 98.5 FM and CKBE 92.5 FM (The Beat). Both will now be allowed to increase power to the maximum 100 kW allowed by their class, and others could follow.

As the CRTC explains in its decision, a moratorium had been placed by Industry Canada on power increases for transmitters on the CBC tower on Mount Royal, concerned about the effects of high-power radiofrequency fields in the area around the site (in Mount Royal Park). When analog television transmitters were replaced by digital ones that required a lot less power, that moratorium was lifted, leading to Cogeco’s applications.

The CRTC said it then asked the CBC to conduct a study to see if other FM stations operating from the tower would also be able to increase to their maximum allowable power. The report said that they could, so the CRTC approved the applications. This means that stations like CHOM, CJFM (Virgin Radio), CFGL (Rythme FM), CKMF (NRJ), CITE (Rouge FM) and CIRA (Radio Ville-Marie) could apply to increase their power to 100 kW (they’re all around 40 kW right now), and it would likely be approved if it didn’t cause interference to other stations’ protected contours. Radio-Canada’s CBF-FM and CBFX-FM are already at 100 kW, and other stations that broadcast from that tower are of a different class.

CKOI-FM is the only station in Montreal that operates at more than 100 kW. One of Montreal’s first FM stations, it was licensed at 307 kW, and grandfathered in at that level. It broadcasts from the top of the CIBC building downtown.

The application for The Beat’s power increase hit a bit of a snag because of an application by Dufferin Communications (Evanov Radio, the same people behind the yet-to-launch Radio Fierté 990AM and Jewel 106.7 in Hudson) for a new station in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., on the same frequency. That station’s parameters would not have caused problems with The Beat’s current protected zone, but both stations would encroach on each other’s protected contours if The Beat increased to 100 kW. At first, the CRTC decided to treat these as competing applications. But the two came to a deal and decided they would accept interference from each other. The Clarence-Rockland station was approved by the CRTC in February. Branded “The Jewel 92.5“, it has yet to launch it launched in September.

The application also caused worry for CKLX-FM (Radio X 91.9), which operates on a nearby frequency. A power increase for The Beat would mean more interference, though because Radio X is three channels away, that interference would be only in an area very close to the transmitter. The CRTC notes that CKLX accepted this potential interference when it first applied for a licence.

For 98.5, there was an intervention by CIAX-FM, the community station in Windsor, Quebec, at 98.3FM, worried about interference. Because Windsor is more than 100 km away from Montreal and its transmitter is less than 500 W, there’s no actual interference problem there.

There’s no word yet on when the transmitter power increase will happen. I’ll update this if I hear back from Cogeco on the matter. Though the radiated power will be more than double what it currently is, the actual effect on reception will be modest. Some listeners on the fringe who pick up the station with some noise will see that noise diminish, but for most people the change will be imperceptible.

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The Beat adds Carson Daly show

Daly Download with Carson Daly

In what it described as an addition to its “already amazing weekend lineup,” 92.5 The Beat has added Carson Daly, whose Daly Download top 30 show will air Saturdays from 9am to noon.

The show, which launched in July, airs on dozens of CBS and Cumulus radio stations in the U.S., but this appears to be its first Canadian pickup. It’s distributed here by Spark Networks, comes in three-hour and four-hour versions, and contemporary hit radio and hot adult contemporary formats.

On The Beat, the show mainly replaces All Access Weekends with Anne-Marie Withenshaw, which had a long run on the station from 10am to noon on Saturdays. Withenshaw just had her first child and is taking maternity leave. So I asked The Beat’s program director Leo Da Estrela what will happen when she’s ready to come back.

“Anne-Marie is definitely part of the weekend line-up when she returns form her maternity leave,” he said. “Without saying too much about our future scheduling, Carson Daly and Anne-Marie will be an integral part of our weekend line-up.”

The rest of The Beat’s schedule remains local, even overnights. Daly’s show follows Weekend Breakfast with Ken Connors and leads into Feel Good Weekends with Nat Lauzon.

Here’s the press release:

Montreal, August 30, 2013 – Carson Daly, host of NBC’s “The Voice” has a new weekly countdown show called “The Daly Download with Carson Daly – This Week’s Top 30”.


The Daly Show will be part of The Beat’s Saturday schedule, premiering August 31 from 9 a.m. until Noon. The show features three hours of great music, and exclusive interviews with the biggest and brightest names in music. The show brings a new twist to radio by taking listener interactivity to another level. With the biggest hits and the biggest stars while showcasing one the most influential music personalities, Carson Daly’s “The Daly Countdown” is now part of your “Feel Good Weekends” on 92.5 The Beat of Montreal.