Montreal radio ratings: Virgin Radio 96 slips to fourth place

Market share among anglophone Montrealers, based on Numeris data

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

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

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

Market share among Montreal francophones, based on Numeris data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 thoughts on “Montreal radio ratings: Virgin Radio 96 slips to fourth place

  1. Sheldon

    There was a rumour circulating that Bell might not renew the contract to use the Virgin Radio brand in Canada. Could this drop in the ratings steer them more in that direction…possibly even a format change?? One could hope.

    Interesting as well to see the healthy percentage of listeners on the Franco list tuning in to English language music stations.

    1. Brett

      Maybe a return on the Mix 96 branding to help their ratings. Possibly adding in some hip hop to bring Virgin Radio closer to that of 94.7 Hits FM?

      Bell needs to change its music on Virgin Radio. I feel they repeat music way to much.

    2. Anonymous

      “You’re listening to CHUM Montreal FM96” “You’re listening to CHUM Vancouver FM94.5″… I don’t see that impossible

    3. dilbert

      Sheldon, I think there is more macro situation in play here. If you look at The Beat, Virgin, Rouge, and Rythme as part of the same market, then you can see a much bigger trend. The Beat seems to be the only one keeping it’s listenership after some nice gains, and the rest of them are declining in pretty obvious fashion. It appears they all have a common problem.

      Steve hit it a bit. The Beat appears to have the choice of music that people prefer over the others, but it may also be the format overall, the ratio of DJ chatter and ads to music, and so on.

      I also think it’s another case of an aging listenership who is moving on. The solid gains on the Franco side by CBC and the continue dominance in english and french with talk radio says a lot about who is actually listening to radio. As younger people tend to be getting their music online, streaming, download, what have you, the radio market (much like many other traditional markets) is trending older and less friendly to music formats. Talk rule for a reason.

      A format change for Virgin is pretty much a must at this point. The Beat has won the battle and without a major change, Virgin appears doomed to be a distant also ran.

      1. Anonymous

        A format change? Virgin has a huge morning show that is “beating” the beat in every category. They are number 1 in every demo except one (to Carter). No one ever mentions that. And they are neck in neck in all other day parts. You should really do your research.

  2. Mediaman

    Well no surprise here for the fall from grace of Virgin Radio, and I too like Sheldon, also heard a rumour about Bell dropping the Virgin brand..

    But more so Steve do you think that Virgin PD Mark Bergman should consider updating his resume? I mean with Martin Tremblay, in effect, his boss overlooking his shoulder, one would think Bergman be part of any change..

    1. Fagstein Post author

      do you think that Virgin PD Mark Bergman should consider updating his resume?

      No one’s job in radio is secure. But I have no reason to believe Bergman’s job is more on the line than it was a week ago.

  3. DS

    I tune in to Freeway & Natasha every morning on my way to work I am a loyal listener but I find they are a bit stale. Perhaps a shuffle is in order? Historically this slot is refreshed more frequently than as of late. Radio banter goes from engaging to white noise over night. I find myself turning the dial frequently. I wish them all well.

  4. Mario D.

    No big surprise nor is it anything to worry about. They are all playing the same type of music and following basically the same format,92.5 94.3 95.9,96.9 105.7 or 107.3 Does not take much to make it go either way on a given period of time.


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