Ratings: CFCF dominates, but CBMT’s happy

Fall 2010 ratings for Montreal anglophone evening newscasts

It’s the kind of statistic that can only be visualized in pie chart form: CFCF (CTV Montreal) continues to dominate the ratings of the three local evening newscasts, according to figures Bill Brownstein put out in Saturday’s story about the station’s anniversary (which, incidentally, is today – happy anniversary). It has more than six times as many viewers as its nearest competitor, and more than four out of every five people watching an anglophone newscast at 6pm is tuned to channel 12.

It’s nothing new. CFCF has been dominating the ratings like this for years, ever since massive budget cuts at the CBC caused people to tune away from NewsWatch.

But the public broadcaster is slowly fighting its way back up. Almost a year and a half since introducing a 90-minute evening newscast (that relied primarily on repeating the same stories), CBMT is seeing a ratings spike in the 5-6pm hour.

“Our audience has almost doubled at 5 and 5:30 since last fall,” news director Mary-Jo Barr explains in an email. “Our share at 5pm is 9% (up from 5% in fall 2009) and our 5:30 share is 10% (up from 6% in Fall 2009).  This is the largest audience the CBC has held in the 5-6 timeslot in recent memory.  We couldn’t be more pleased.”

This is a sign that Montrealers are realizing there’s a newscast at 5pm on CBC, and if for whatever reason that timeslot is more convenient for them, they can get their news from CBC instead of CTV. It’s nowhere near the kind of ratings CFCF gets for its 6pm newscast, but it should still serve as a lesson to CBMT, Global’s CKMI and other stations who trail badly in the ratings department: Unless you have a truckload of money to waste, don’t try to take beat the leader with a bad copy of what it does.

Barr also credits some content changes for the increased ratings. “We’ve been working hard to make the show as relevant as possible to English Montrealers,” she says. “We’ve more clearly defined each half hour.  We’ve increased our investigative reporting by dedicating our Shawn Apel to the beat and by embedding Nancy Wood in Radio-Canada’s investigative unit.  We’ve also added a weekly segment, Jennifer Hall’s “Montrealer of the Week”, which features the achievements of everyday Montrealers.  We also continue to place special emphasis on breaking news, live reporting, and local news and weather.  Seems like the winning formula is starting to pay off.”

(With respect to Apel, who is a solid reporter, an investigative team of one isn’t going to make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But I appreciate the effort.)

So where do we go from here? I think CBC should just scrap the last half-hour of its newscast and run a straight hour from 5 to 6, where they have no competition (unfortunately, because too many big decisions are still made in Toronto, that’s not likely to happen here unless it happens everywhere else too). Find places or beats that CFCF either isn’t interested in covering or isn’t doing a good job with, and make those their own.

And what about Global?

Mike Le Couteur hosting what is apparently the Global Maritimes newscast

I hesitate to use the word “laughingstock”, mostly out of respect to the small crew of journalists who are trying their best there. But I tuned in to last night’s News Final (it’s the only local anglo newscast between 11:05 and 11:30) to see that it had a “Global Maritimes” bug in the corner. That lasted about 10 minutes until I mentioned it on Twitter and someone fixed it.

Yes, “it’s just a bug“, but it’s a symptom of the larger problem of what happens when you try to run a newscast on the cheap by producing and directing it in another city. I’ve watched the show many times waiting for the weatherman to accidentally give the Toronto forecast (CKMI’s weather is done by the weather presenter at Global’s Toronto station), and to his credit I haven’t seen Anthony Farnell slip up yet.

There’s some hope on the horizon. With Shaw’s acquisition of Global from Canwest, they’ve promised (as part of a government-mandated compensation package) to invest significantly in the stations, among them a new local morning show set to debut in 2012 (four years after This Morning Live went off the air). It’s unclear at this point how much of that would actually be produced and directed in Montreal, but it fills a gaping hole in local news, where the only thing between midnight and noon is a local news ticker at the bottom of the screen during CTV’s Canada AM.

I think CKMI should consider moving its evening newscast, perhaps to 7pm, and either move those stupid celebrity gossip shows elsewhere or kill them entirely. But they won’t, of course. Global, unfortunately, gave up on local news in this market long ago.

22 thoughts on “Ratings: CFCF dominates, but CBMT’s happy

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Because you posting on Twitter means they read your tweet and automatically changed it. False correlation.

      Well, nobody “automatically” did anything, but it was a Global technician who saw the tweet and replied to it.

  1. ATSC

    That Global Maritimes bug is really funny. Good catch.

    It’s no surprise that CFCF-TV 12 leads the Montreal English market local news ratings. That station has had a very stable product over the past five decades. Yes, the products’ name has changed over the years. But, whatever it’s called, you can always find it at the same bat time. Same bat channel. And people don’t change habits when they feel no need to change.

    The CBMT-TV 6 local news product disappeared for a time. Forcing people to change their habits. This new 5pm – 6:30pm news block is a great idea. In most cases, I usually watch their news at 5pm when I can. If I can’t I’ll catch the first 15mins of CFCF-TV 12’s local news at 6pm. Usually past 15 minutes into their news show is nothing worth watching.

    CKMI-TV 46 on the other hand seems lost. I’m not saying that they don’t do a good job with what they have. It’s just a little weird when you get two or three local Montreal stories, and the rest seems like network filler stories from other Global O&O (owned and operated) stations. With product like that, is it any wonder that they pull in so few viewers. I wonder what the numbers are for their 11pm show.

    Having all three local English stations place their local news around the 6pm time slot seems a little nutty. CFCF-TV will not move their show. Why should they. But CKMI-TV, I think they should look into it. Perhaps they can move their National news to 6pm, and then have CKMI-TV local news at 6:30pm. They can probably pick up the viewers from CBMT-TV when that show ends. It would also help people who get home a little later from work to get the local news at 6:30pm. The other option I would think would be National News at 6:30pm, and local news at 7pm. I doubt this will ever happen. Those useless Entertainment Tonight shows will never be moved. Who watches those things any more anyway.

    I’m glad CJNT-TV 62 runs Sportsline at 7pm and Everbody Hates Chris at 7:30pm. Nice to have a different option to Hollywood gossip shows.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Those useless Entertainment Tonight shows will never be moved. Who watches those things any more anyway.

      Certainly not me. I know there are people who do watch those shows, but it seems to me there’s a giant gaping hole between 7 and 8 pm (except when CTV has so many American shows on its schedule it has to air one at 7) and local news or other local programming would be a good thing to fill it with (and, in fact, that’s when some very successful local programming aired).

  2. Anonymous

    CBC is certainly on the upswing, I could easily see them with 20% or more of the market, especially as CFCF dies off and continues to become more and more CTV Montreal. Having Frank Cavalarro over there doesn’t hurt either. The whole 50th anniversary celebration at CFCF reminds me of how much has been lost.

    I agree with ATSC, the one thing they have had right is “same bat time, same bat channel”. No screwing around there, except maybe the question of 5 minutes at 11:30. Otherwise, it’s been the same thing since I can remember, and that has been a long time.

    Global is the big loser, because their commitment to local news is very light, and everyone knows it. You don’t tune into Global for local news. They have really hung their hats on the idea of a “national” newscast at 5:30 being their big deal, but it doesn’t seem to play much in Montreal. They sort of lose their way here.

    As an anglophone, it may surprise many that I prefer to watch TVA for local news. While I can smell their often biased viewpoints a mile back, they generally do cover actual local news. (speaking of bias, the whole Bastarache commission coverage at TVA has been remarkably one sided, you know these people don’t like a liberal government).

    1. Fagstein Post author

      As an anglophone, it may surprise many that I prefer to watch TVA for local news.

      Not necessarily. Plenty of people cross the linguistic divide to find their news, in either direction. (Though the anglo newscasts can use all the viewers they can get.) Because it’s the closest thing to an all-Montreal-news channel, LCN is what you’ll find on usually in our newsroom outside of the newscasts.

  3. Jean Naimard

    I never understood the idea of having a newscast at 17:00.

    How do they expect people to watch it? At 17:00, people are getting out of the office and are heading home!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      How do they expect people to watch it? At 17:00, people are getting out of the office and are heading home!

      Not everyone. Plenty of people don’t work 9-to-5 anymore, and even many of the people who do will work an 8-4 shift or something different. Others have the opposite problem and don’t get home until after the 6pm news. Six is still where the big traffic is, but those people watch CFCF.

    2. ATSC

      You would be surprised at the amount of news is targeted for the 5pm crowd. I for one tune in at 5pm when I’m at work to catch the news in the background. I don’t watch the whole newscast. But I do pay attention on the top stories. At 6pm, I’m just about ready to go home. A 6pm newscast is useless for me. I’m on the road then.

      Also look at WCAX-DT (3.1), and WPTZ-DT (5.1) out of the Burlington-Plattsburgh market. Both of those stations begin their local news at 5pm. WCAX-DT runs their local news for two hours, and WPTZ-DT runs it’s for 90mins. For these stations to offer so much local news starting at 5pm in such a small market would indicate that something is going on with what peoples availability is for watching local news. WCAX-DT even runs a news style interview show within that block, and then reruns it on their secondary channel (3.2) at 10pm. Alternative placement of local news to capture the viewers that couldn’t watch earlier on their main (3.1) channel. And to show you how crazy local WCAX-DT is, they even run University Hockey, and Basketball games on their (3.2) to add even more local coverage.

      How I wish one of the three local Montreal english stations would be as good as WCAX-DT in their market for local coverage.

      1. Marc

        And to show you how crazy local WCAX-DT is, they even run University Hockey, and Basketball games on their (3.2) to add even more local coverage.

        That’s also a very American thing; where college sports get nationwide coverage. So they better cover them on the local level if they know what’s good for them. But even WCAX doesn’t have a plethora of local shows like CFCF used to have.

        How I wish one of the three local Montreal english stations would be as good as WCAX-DT in their market for local coverage.

        Well, WCAX is all locally O & O’d so I wonder if that has anything to do with it, hmmmm… Take a look at the ID & branding of WGCL-DT and you can see what happens to local identity when a big conglemerate or network gets a hold of a station. You’d think this one was Canadian-owned based on how things are here now.

  4. Ibrahim Imiru

    It’s still a big, sweet piece of the local anglo pie for CFCF, no surprise there.

    CTV is the only one of the”Big 3″ news networks that still has powerful, respected news directors who can hold off the Toronto dogs whenever they whip out the axe. From Jed Kahane in Montreal, to Peter Millette in Halifax to Vancouver’s Margo Harper (and Tom Walters, and Bob Hurst before that), CTV local news directors can still carry some weight with the network, when they choose to throw it around.
    As for CBC and Global, trust me – whenever you see weird decisions like cancelling or moving newscasts, or having the control room based in another city, rest assured that the local folks had nothing to do with it. It was a Toronto move all the way, and we all know what Toronto thinks of “the regions” (Montreal included).
    The only way things will change is if the pendulum swings back to local ownership of private TV stations.
    It might sound unlikely, but stranger things have happened in the business.

    1. Alex H

      Remember that business tends to go in cycles of companies being put together into mega conglomerates, only to have them sell off “non core assets” later on in life. You only have to look at a company like Yum Brands (a&w, pizza hut, KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers), or the Wendy’s / Arby’s / Tim Hortons thing that has hortons off by itself now and Arby’s on the selling block.

      It is a little harder to do in Media, but there is some hope that the in the long run, there is a push to separate out the parts of the system to different players, rather than having everything locked up with a few media gloms. The local TV matters thing was pure shit end to end, a nice way to tag on some extra money to your cable bill. The cable company being the same one that owns the networks that owns the local stations that they were fighting for. They were literally both sides of the same argument. It is almost comical that the CRTC let such a farcical situation occur, but since they mostly appear to be worried about counting canadian content and not about actually making things work, they let it happen.

      One day we may again see a cfcf12. But that is gone and buried, replaced by plastic duplication of Toronto. It’s sad. It also gives CBC especially a chance to step up and actually connect with the local market.

  5. RBM

    Speaking of Global Maritimes, they re-hired their old weekend meteorologist and made him the chief meteorologist of the station. Another weather presenter does the weekend shows. And now Global Maritimes is back on Shaw Direct.

    Seems like Global Montreal is at the bottom of the big Global totem pole.

  6. Jack

    Sad but CFCF news is just a pile of paid ads and government press releases.
    CBC news is a breath of fresh air.
    CFCF can take their bake sale soft news and shove it.

  7. Justin

    How is it that CTV News can Become such a power house in most of the markets it’s in and dominates in the ratings. It’s just ridiculous to look at some of these ratings where in cities like Toronto CTV is Number 1 all the time and competition is so far away even if you look @ the public ratings on BBM CTV Evening news has like 1.5M Viewers next to Global with 900 or 800 thousand viewers. Why do people watch CTV and not cbc or global it just baffles me!!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      How is it that CTV News can Become such a power house in most of the markets it’s in and dominates in the ratings.

      History and budget. In Montreal, CFCF-12 was the big private station and had the big newscast, so it was where people tuned in at 6pm to watch local news. CBMT (CBC) had a competing one-hour newscast at 6pm with NewsWatch, and wasn’t far behind in the ratings, but the decision by the CBC to have the Canada Now format (half hour of national news, half hour of local news, with huge budget cuts to local news) torpedoed that. Now the ratings difference between CTV and CBC in Montreal is more than 5:1.

      Global only started a Montreal station in 1997. It tried at first to compete with the other networks (at one point it was the only anglo station in Quebec with a morning show), but now it produces only two half-hour newscasts a day, produced out of Edmonton, and with a reporting staff of about half a dozen.

      CTV Montreal has the bigger budget, the bigger staff, the biggest audience, and the most advertising revenue.

      This picture isn’t the same all across Canada. Global is a much bigger player out west. Global BC dominates the Vancouver market, mainly because the station (CHAN, a former CTV affiliate) was already a dominant local station when it was bought by Global. In markets like Edmonton and Calgary, CTV and Global compete on a near even level.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      In what cities does Global dominate CTV?

      For local newscasts, Vancouver.

      On average how many people actually watch the news?

      A lot. CTV National News has about 1.1 million viewers on average. In Montreal, CTV News has between 100,000 and 200,000 viewers at 6pm, and in the latest ratings it was the highest rated show overall among anglophones, beating out even primetime shows like the Big Bang Theory.

      1. David Newsome

        I do not get it. The population of Montreal is 1.65 million people and they get 100-200 thousand viewers. What are they doing wrong.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          I do not get it. The population of Montreal is 1.65 million people and they get 100-200 thousand viewers. What are they doing wrong.

          Not doing the news in French? The Montreal area has about 700,000 anglophones. CTV Montreal’s evening newscast has market shares above 50%, meaning more people are watching it than all other channels combined.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *