RNC Média is still trying to figure out a winning formula for its FM station in Montreal, and after failing at jazz, right-wing talk and serious news-talk, it’s moving to sports talk.
The news was first reported by La Presse after the company dismissed its star hosts Louis Lemieux, Josélito Michaud and Caroline Proulx. The news was confirmed on air and online by the station, but with only a promise of details soon.
Radio-Canada reports 15 of 28 jobs have been cut at the station.
RNC MEDIA confirme que son équipe prépare l’arrivée d’une station consacrée au sport. Tous les détails vous seront dévoilés prochainement.
— Radio 919 (@radio919fm) June 30, 2015
CKLX-FM 91.9 began in 2004 as Planète Jazz, under the assumption that the city with one of the world’s biggest jazz festivals would be interested in a station devoted to that music. That didn’t work, and in 2012 the company asked the CRTC to adopt a spoken-word format. It switched the station’s brand to Radio X and adopted a format similar to the Quebec City station that has found ratings success with right-wingers complaining about things, decried by critics as “radio poubelle”.
But Radio X didn’t work here, so last fall it rebranded as Radio 9, hired former RDI host Louis Lemieux and tried to get more serious.
But that didn’t work either, and the station couldn’t climb out of the ratings basement while its direct competitor CHMP-FM 98.5 dominated.
This format change, which doesn’t require CRTC approval because it remains a spoken word station, brings a full-time sports radio station in French back to Montreal for the first time since CKAC went from all-sports to traffic information in 2011, moving some of its sports talk to 98.5.
The road will be difficult for this station in a sports format, because 98.5 has popular sports shows in the evenings and has exclusive rights to Canadiens and Alouettes games. It also recently acquired rights to some Impact games. CKLX-FM might pick up the remaining Impact games, and rights to other sports, but those won’t have nearly the same ratings draw.
There’s also another factor in play here: Two years ago the CRTC authorized the launch of a French-language all-sports station at 850 AM owned by 7954689 Canada Inc. (Tietolman-Tétrault-Pancholy Media). The deadline to launch that station passed 11 days ago, but the CRTC says it has received a request for an extension and is studying it. Normally stations can get a one-year extension to launch a radio station if they ask for it before the deadline.
This change for RNC Média might force TTP Media to rethink its plans for 850 AM, or even abandon the project entirely.
TTP Media has been dormant (comatose, really) since it acquired its three licences, except for its requests for extensions to launch. The last of those, nine months ago, said its stations were six to nine months to launch. The uncertainty about this company will likely end in November, when the final extension for its first licence (a French news-talk station at 940 AM) expires, and it’s either on the air or it loses its authorization for good.