Radio ratings: CJAD tops 30% share, The Beat holds huge lead over Virgin

Numeris released its quarterly ratings for the Montreal market last week, covering the period of Feb. 26 to May 27. There isn’t much new among the anglophone or francophone markets in terms of market share, but the numbers give us another data point to look at some longer-term trends.

For the record, here is the average minute audience for stations measured by Numeris in the Montreal central market (in the cases of stations having the same AMA figure, the daily reach is used as a tiebreaker):

Anglophones (813,000 total)

  1. CJAD 800: 16,500
  2. The Beat 92.5: 10,400
  3. Virgin Radio 95.9: 5,900
  4. CHOM 97.7: 5,400
  5. CBC Radio One: 4,900
  6. Rythme FM 105,7: 1,400
  7. TSN Radio 690: 1,200
  8. CBC Music (Radio Two) 93.5: 1,000
  9. Rouge 107,3: 500
  10. CHMP 98,5 fm: 500
  11. CHRF 980: 500
  12. Énergie 94,3: 300
  13. CKOI 96,9: 300
  14. ICI Première 95,1: 200
  15. ICI Musique 100,7: 100
  16. 91,9 Sports: 100
  17. Radio Circulation 730: 0
  18. CIBL 101,5: 0

Francophones (2,813,000 total)

  1. CHMP 98,5 fm: 33,100
  2. ICI Première: 25,400
  3. Rythme FM 105,7: 24,800
  4. Rouge 107,3: 14,900
  5. CKOI 96,9: 14,400
  6. The Beat 92.5: 9,400
  7. Énergie 94,3: 8,800
  8. CHOM 97.7: 8,200
  9. Virgin Radio 95.9: 7,900
  10. 91,9 Sports: 3,600
  11. ICI Musique: 3,500
  12. CBC Music (Radio Two): 1,100
  13. CJAD 800: 1,000
  14. TSN Radio 690: 1,000
  15. CHRF 980: 600
  16. CBC Radio One: 500
  17. Radio Circulation 730: 200
  18. CIBL 101,5: 100

English market trends

Numeris radio ratings (% anglophone market share, 2+/12+, Montreal central market)

The best news comes for CJAD this quarter: its 30.6% market share is its best in at least seven years. The audience is still older than its music station rivals, but for overall audience, CJAD is still well ahead.

Among the music stations, The Beat continues to dominate over Virgin Radio. It has a larger share of tuning hours in 17 of the past 18 reports, and that lead has been growing, with The Beat now having 75% more average-minute audience than Virgin, and the latter competing not only with CHOM but CBC Radio One for third place in the market. CHOM’s decline has been less pronounced than Virgin’s, but still there.

For CBC Radio One, the latest numbers solidify gains that appear to have started about two years ago, but they haven’t had a book with an overall number higher than any of the music stations yet.

And for TSN 690, it’s a very disappointing spring with only a 2.1% market share, putting it behind French-language music station Rythme FM among anglophones. The station’s numbers can likely be tied directly to the lack of competitiveness of Montreal sports franchises, particularly the Canadiens. Over the past seven years, their highest numbers in terms of market share came in the spring of 2014 and 2015. Those happen to be the two years that the Canadiens made it past the first round of the playoffs. (The station has done slightly better among francophone audiences though, coming out of the margin of error with a 0.6% share.)

CBC Music (formerly CBC Radio Two) has ratings in the margins, around 2-3%.

Francophone market trends

Numeris radio ratings (% francophone market share, 2+/12+, Montreal central market)

Though 98.5 FM continues to be the most popular station in French, the best news goes to ICI Radio-Canada Première, which just edged out Rythme FM for the No. 2 spot overall. After big declines in 2015-16, the station has rebounded as Rythme has dropped in popularity.

Rythme’s main competitor, Bell’s Rouge FM 107.3, picked up a half-point but not nearly enough to recover from whatever happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to cause it to lose almost half its share. It’s now fighting with CKOI for second place among music stations and fourth place overall.

Behind them is Énergie 94,3, which is swimming among the three anglophone music stations in terms of francophone market share. (CHOM and Virgin Radio both have more francophone listeners than anglophone ones.)

The next tier are the specialty stations; ICI Musique and 91,9 Sports. the latter of which continues to enjoy relative success with the format it adopted in 2015. 91,9 Sports has an identical share among francophones (2.1%) that TSN 690 has among anglophones.

Not represented on the chart are the stations that barely register: CHRF 980, Radio Circulation 730 and CIBL 101,5, all with shares below 0.5%. CHRF registers about 600 francophone listeners and 500 anglophone ones, which isn’t nothing but isn’t much. CIBL hasn’t had a share above 0.1% since it started reporting in 2016.

Radio Classique (CJPX-FM 99.5) hasn’t been part of the top-line Numeris report since last year.


The Beat understandably crowed about its numbers, focusing on its morning show beating out Virgin and CHOM among adults 25-54. Virgin also claimed to be the #1 English radio station in Montreal by focusing on its total reach, which is slightly higher than The Beat. (Going by total reach counts one person who tunes in five minutes a month the same as someone who tunes in three hours a day, which is less useful for advertisers wanting to know how many people they will reach with a particular ad.)

Bell Media says Rouge FM is the most improved station in the market and Énergie is the top music station for francophone men in certain time slots.

Other coverage

  • Le Devoir
  • La Presse, with some audience numbers for most popular shows
  • InfoPresse, with 25-54 audience numbers (notes that CJAD had a higher overall audience 25-54 than CHOM)

44 thoughts on “Radio ratings: CJAD tops 30% share, The Beat holds huge lead over Virgin

  1. Marc

    Methinks CJFM is heading for rebranding and/or format change later this year. They and CKBE have effectively the same playlist and are going after the same demographic. The duel between the two is several years old and it’s time to declare a winner – 92.5.

    1. Anonymous

      Add to the fact that 94.7 and 92.9 plays contemporary hit radio similar-ish music. I cannot understand why CJFM isn’t going towards a format change. I know CHR is in the demo most coveted by advertisers: mostly (not all) females age 18-35, But, since younger people are more inclined to listen to CHR music via streaming service like spotify and youtube, you would think it would be a no-brainer to switch to an oldies “jack fm” type of format since older people still listen to radio.

    2. Brett

      I agree I feel CJFM will change branding and slightly alter format. Maybe include some music that other CHR is playing but not in Montreal.

  2. laconfidential

    Well, the reason that CJAD continues to dominate is that there is no competition. Bell Media has been notorious for letting great, committed, and passionate people go despite the many years of hard working loyalty and passion they had for the once thriving radio broadcasting industry. However, since CJAD does not have any direct competition, they can basically write their own ticket, play recorded / satellite programming, and still have a big share in the Montreal Anglophone market without cutting into Bell Media’s bottom line. It would take a very fierce, and direct competitor (calling T.T.P Media – hello, is there anybody out there?) or anyone else that has the determination, courage, and strength to compete with CJAD. CJAD is not what it used to be. Back in the great days with Gord Sinclair, George Balcan, Victor Nerenberg, Melanie King, and there are so many other people who names I would like to mention, but I would be writing from here to eternity – however, you get the picture of the comparison of the radio station that most of us would listen to every morning, get the news on the second, rock solid talk show hosts, people behind the scenes who always received credit for every show they produced. Yes, that is the way CJAD ran their radio station and the people who worked there were proud to say that they worked there, put on CJAD apparel and would listen to the radio themselves to ensure whatever work they did sounded great. Hosts, producers, technical producers, all worked with their loyalty and their passions. Now it is who Bell can get rid of to save a buck for their bottom line and they could not care any less for their employees; for if they did, people would still be working there. Seniority counts for nothing or length of their years of loyal service count for absolutely nothing, zilch, nada, rien!.Alas, CJAD can write their own ticket and Bell Media dominates the Canadian radio landscape and now has secured the Montreal market, we are now at their mercy which is why I no longer listen to any commercial radio.

  3. Anonymous

    I just love be the way CJAD pats itself on the back and crows about its spectacular performance. Reminds me of the time a long time ago at the napierrville drag strip when I was first to cross the line in my 4 cylinder 40hp beetle. I crowed about that for years, but never bothered to say that there was no other car on the track! Hard not to win with no other competition in your field… I.e. talk radio.
    Nice to have a monopoly in your space.

  4. Mediaman

    Well I’m kinda echoing comments already made here.. The comment about AD by laconfidential is actually right on.

    Definitely no competition .AM 600 run by Steve Kowch could possibly demolish 800 within a year or two with smart, creative, astute and all local programming, and no corporate programs from Toronto ..

    As for the Virgin /Beat Wars ,the handwriting has been on the wall for a while, but Mark Bergman is unable to figure it out ,and I’m surprised he’s still around with another programmer next office over that being Martin Tremblay.
    Something has to give here..

    Management change, music change, rebranding for sure. Virgin’s time has come..

  5. dilbert

    No surprises here at all.

    CJAD is top by far for many reasons. They trend “older” demographically, and the radio listener population is (not shockingly) trending older. younger people get their music from different sources (streaming and downloads), and are less likely to be tuning in.

    My guess is that with Bell offering the same traffic, weather, sports, and the like on all stations, they have made it easier for people to transition away from Virgin and CHOM towards CJAD as they get older and don’t want the “noisy music”. Draining listeners from their music stations is probab ly the key take away in all of this.

    I am also thinking that CJAD getting away (finally) from “Talk Tommy” has been helpful. There is less reason for people to immediately tune out when he comes on, and that would certainly help them through the day. 98.5FM proves there is a huge market for talk radio, and CJAD getting rid of a shrill, polarizing host and replacing him with more, umm, middle of the road types certainly can’t be hurting them. It’s also a strike against CHOM and Virgin, as listeners who might do the AD morning show and then switch away from Tommy might not be doing it anymore.

    The Beat has effectively won the “format war” with Virgin, and as a result has the vast majority of the listeners in the younger demographic.

    So what is Bell to do? Virgin as a brand is sort of mixed, in the UK it’s only a digital media brand at this point. Bell has Virgin in about every market in Canada, mostly as the number 4 to number 8 station in market, which isn’t horrible in markets with many more Anglo stations than Montreal. But 95.9 has been virgin now since 2009, and the format and branding seem a little bit stale. The problem for Bell is that change isn’t easy, especially if you are talking about changing 9 station across Canada to a new format. It’s really not obvious what they can do to move forward. One thing for sure, they (and CHOM) are getting killed in the market place, and the decline is solid, on going, and there is nothing to suggest it’s going to change.

    I wonder what would happen is Bell decided to move CJAD to “simulcast” on FM in place of Virgin. 98.5 is showing that talk radio on FM is not only workable, but is actually powerful. They could even go hybrid, talk from 5am to 7pm, and then music all night… let the AM version run Ghost to Ghost at night, and leave the FM for music.

    It would save Bell a ton of money :)

    1. Brett

      I’m Orlando there is a station that is on FM and it’s talk all day and alternative rock at nights and weekends. Maybe That’s the key talk and what ever music format works.

      1. dilbert

        Reality is that AM is, in bigger cities are least, a bit of a dying band. Doesn’t get great coverage in the buildings. which is offset by better distance coverage. FM is more reliable in city centers, and talk on FM is no longer a taboo that it once was.

        AM tuners are becoming a novelty rather than a requirement, cell phones and MP3 players that receive radio generally don’t even receive AM.

        AD has 3 times the ratings of Virgin at this point, What would be lost in turning it into “daytime AD” is a lot smaller than the potential gains for AD in having a good signal with great coverage. They might give up half the audience, but at the same time give up ALL of the Virgin staff. I am thinking Bell might like that tradeoff.

        Of course, all of this can be moot if the CRTC, Industry Canada, and the governent get together to mandate a transition to HD radio. That would essentially eliminate the need for any AM stations (why bother) and would open up the potential for dozens of new stations in every market in Canada.

      1. dilbert

        The lack of serious companies lining up for AM slots means that it’s moot. In fact, the “loss” of service could almost be seen as Bell reducing their anglo footprint to three stations instead of 4.

        For the moment, nobody seems to be actively looking at creating a higher power Anglo station on AM. Look at TTP, they have the licenses and they still can’t seem to get past the coming soon stage of automated music.

  6. Jon

    Let’s see…it’s going to be almost a decade since the Virgin Radio rebrand started in Canada.
    Also, let’s not forget this was in the last years that Astral Media existed before it merged with Bell.

    First, in Toronto with CKFM (99.9 Mix FM) in August 2008. Not long after that, CJFM (Mix 96) in Montreal and CKZZ (Z953 / 95Crave) in Vancouver both adopted the Virgin Radio brands at the start of 2009.

    This also happened with The Bear in Ottawa, although that lasted only two years before they brought back the name, then disappeared altogether before it was sold off to Corus.

    In later years, the Virgin Radio brand expanded to other Canadian markets including Calgary (2010), Edmonton (2011), London and Winnipeg (2012). Then came the merger with Astral which forced Bell to divest some of its properties to other companies. Among the transactions, Bell sold some of their less profitable stations to the likes of Corus, Newcap Radio and the Jim Pattison Group just to name a few.

    After the merger with Astral closed in 2013, Bell sold off the Vancouver station to Newcap, which brought back the Z95 branding in 2015, but in the process took another popular station and adopted the Virgin Radio brand name (CFBT 94.5).

    Two other markets have since been added: Halifax and Kitchener (2016).

    So after all this, how much of an impact has the Virgin Radio brand made in Canada?

    I will admit it’s been almost two years now since listening to the radio, and I agree with most of the posts that here in Montreal, between 92.5, 95.9, 94.7 and 92.9, it’s like they are competing against each other with similar playlists. I stuck with 95.9 for the most part, but after a while, it just got tired and the only time I listen now is on Sunday evenings when they air the syndicated UK Hit Music Chart Show, which is essentially how I keep up with the current music these days.

    No matter how bad the numbers are for Virgin in the Montreal market, I would not anticipate a rebrand just yet. As long as Bell finds a way to spin these numbers and it’s still reaching their bottom line…how long that lasts, who knows? Perhaps some changes behind the scenes are overdue. And of course during this last decade, plenty has changed not only with the Canadian radio landscape but with the way we consume the product thanks to the growth of music streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play just to name a few.

    And then, there’s Stingray Digital. Over a month ago, they offered to acquire Newcap Radio, pending CRTC approval. Stingray is based right here in Montreal, and for all the music services they have acquired as of late, one would think it’s only a matter of time before they own a radio station here, considering how they already have stations in other major Canadian markets. In doing so, maybe Bell should consider unloading some of their radio stations to a new player in the market.

    One possible scenario:

    Stingray Digital gets the greenlight to buy Newcap Radio. Afterwards, either Virgin Radio or CHOM gets sold only if Bell feels that they are no longer profitable. Even though TSN Radio had low ratings, it’s synonymous with the TSN brand which Bell is highly unlikely to give up, and they will eventually rebound. Should Virgin Radio change hands, it could be renamed back to Mix 96 (like what happened in Vancouver or something else to go with the other stations they already own). Also, I think it’s key to go for a genre that is not already touched in the Montreal market but has worked elsewhere – in other words, something else other than CHR/Rhythmic/Top 40, rock, news/talk or sports.

    At some point down the road, whenever the Virgin Radio brand is no longer licensed for use in Canada by Bell or of any value to them for that matter, the remaining stations can then be perhaps be sold off to other buyers and cleared to take on different brands.

    Stingray could apply for a license to launch another radio station here in Montreal, but I think it would prove to be a tougher sell. And there are always a number of factors that come into play, as existing players in the market will have something to say and the listening audience has become more fragmented.

    It will be intriguing to see what Stingray can offer once they get approval from the CRTC and the plans they have for Montreal in the radio industry, if they have any.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Stingray is based right here in Montreal, and for all the music services they have acquired as of late, one would think it’s only a matter of time before they own a radio station here, considering how they already have stations in other major Canadian markets.

      Rogers and Corus also have radio stations across the country but none in Montreal. There’s simply no space left on the FM band for a new music station, and no one wants to start a new AM talk station. The likelihood of Bell selling Virgin or CHOM in the short term is just about nil (unless there’s some plan for Bell Media itself to be sold).

    2. Sam Santos

      Maybe CJFM should be rebranded 95.9 BOB FM Try our 80’s, 90’s and whatever. Mike FM on 105.1 is not enough for variety hits as they do it on drive time. They should also try bringing back Mainstream AC, they can should become Majic 96 (95.9) like Majic 100 Ottawa. Fill the coils that 92,5 left after it switched to rhythmic AC.
      Or if stingray acquires them (if not profitable under bell), try modern rock. They should become Live 95-9 or 96X.

      1. Brett

        I agree a variety hits or Adult Contemporary format would do well. Just look at the French Adult Contemporary stations. They do well.

  7. Anonymous

    I’ll sometimes tune into CJAD (800 AM, 107.3-HD2 FM) in the morning to get the weather, and some local news. Just listening to them gives me the feeling that they are phoning it in.

    As for CKGM (690 AM, 107.3-HD3 FM), they certainly need to do something about the way they do sports radio. Not sure what, but its clear from the ratings that it’s not working.

    CJFM (95.9 FM), certainly needs to do some sort of format change. CKBE (92.5 FM) does a great job with their present format. If CJFM (95.9 FM) wants to stand out, a format change might be needed.

    This market is very dull when it comes to radio. The problem I believe is that Cogeco & Bell Media own too many stations. The CRTC should force each one to sell a station to another owner. And one of those two has to be a FM station. So that the new owner can have access to the FM Band.

    As for the two TPP Media stations on the AM Band. What a waste of electricity. Nothing has come thru with their promises.

    Can you do a update on the HD Radio situation in the Montreal Market. ICI Premiere (95.1) is now broadcasting in HD Radio. Does that mean the a CBC Radio station will also light up the HD Radio function?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      ICI Premiere (95.1) is now broadcasting in HD Radio. Does that mean the a CBC Radio station will also light up the HD Radio function?

      CBM-FM (93.5) has been doing some experimenting with HD Radio, though there are no immediate plans for additional programming channels on it. An HD rebroadcast of Radio One and CBC Music, like they’re doing on the French side, is probably likely in the medium term.

      1. Anonymous

        I hope this actually happens. According to Wikipedia CBME on 88.5 FM has a 11,500 watts output. While CBM on 93.5 FM has a output of 100,000 watts. If they place Radio 1 on the HD2 position of 93.5, then more people will have a chance to access CBME outside the Montreal area. Probably be even able to reach the US border. I think this would be a great solution to our limited space FM Band in Montreal.

        Any news from any of the Cogeco stations kicking in with HD Radio?

  8. Dw

    I am not sure if I am reading the charts correctly, but does this mean that The Beat has higher overall audience than CJAD 19800 to 17500.

  9. Marc

    Also – just look at the on-air staff that have en masse moved to 92.5 from 95.9. CJFM needs a new format; the Mix96 golden era of 1995-05 is long gone.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Also – just look at the on-air staff that have en masse moved to 92.5 from 95.9.

      And that staff is no doubt making more money with The Beat. The Beat might be more popular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more profitable, and that’s what Bell cares about most.

      1. Gazoo28

        Hence the cuts they have put forth over the past couple of years… bottom line.
        CJAD #1 on the English side. Add their 1000 from the Francophone, falls behind the combined numbers for the Beat.

  10. Mike

    What a sad state of affairs for Montreal English radio. The market is dying for some uniqueness and competition!!! CJAD is #1 by default. Doesn’t deserve it with the way they’ve treated their employees and their programming decisions.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Are certain shows on CJAD (Carter/Rand) carrying the lion’s share of listeners?

      I don’t have show-by-show breakdowns of audience, but historically CJAD has always been strongest in the morning and the music stations (particularly The Beat) stronger during the day.

  11. Ian G. Ilagan

    I’m not a fan of 92.5 but I like more 105.7/107.3 over 92.5 because 107.3 re-branded the same year six years ago in the summer of 2011 as 92.5.

    1. Brett

      I agree if Bell put an English version of what Rouge FM plays I could see it being middle age audience that has music missing on English radio.

  12. Anonymous

    If anyone ever doubted how important English radio is in this city just look at this thread. I agree with almost everyone here. It is time for the morning shows on Montreal radio to step it up.

  13. Will

    If 690s lower ratings can be attributed to the Habs not making the playoffs, why didn’t 91.9 sports suffer the same fate? 91.9 numbers are the same as last year with a playoff while 690 lost a full percentage point.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      If 690s lower ratings can be attributed to the Habs not making the playoffs, why didn’t 91.9 sports suffer the same fate?

      Because 91.9 was not a sports station during the 2014 and 2015 playoffs. The station is only three years old and still growing as its audience learns about its existence. Its market share among francophones is 2.1% (same as TSN’s among anglophones). That’s roughly consistent with the market share for sports talk radio stations in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, which are generally between 1.5% and 3%.

      TSN’s audience among francophones actually grew in this ratings book.

  14. Brett

    If Bell put the EZ Rock format on 95.9 I’d listen and I’m sure many would. So much great music missing from the Montreal English market

  15. Nick

    Was listening to digital station Real Fun Beach Radio on the iHeart Radio app and love it. If Bell brought in a localized version it would do well in market. Plays music from all genres that get played in Montreal and some songs missing from English market. Variety hits would do well on 95.9. It’sa wider mix then their BOB FM brand.

  16. dilbert

    Okay, now a more interesting question: Do they report (a) the total size of the audience, (b) what percentage of the population actually tunes in, and (c) what other things are people listening to?

    it’s a question of size of market. CJAD getting over 30% is nice, but if the market is shrinking 10% a year, perhaps they are just losing less.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Do they report (a) the total size of the audience, (b) what percentage of the population actually tunes in, and (c) what other things are people listening to?

      (a) yes, (b) you can easily calculate that, (c) it depends

      1. dilbert

        Okay, help me out to understand this. I see their “average daily universe” but that number seems to be total population (12 plus) and not total audience. The daily cume totals up (in anglo) to a number higher than the total audience, But does not reveal what percentage of the population was listening to radio. So the “share” appears to represent a percentage of the cume times ama, and not much else.

        I cannot from those numbers determine what part of the population is actively listening to radio. There is also no separation for people who hear radio incidentally (say walking into a store that has the radio on) rather than who actively turn the radio on to listen. The difference would be significant, as one might not be actively engaged by radio in a store.

        So I am at a loss to determine what percentage of Montrealers listen to radio actively, what percentage listens only incidentally (say music on hold), and what percentage have no listening. So there is no way to determine if CJAD’s 30% share is as good as a 25% share was 5 or 10 years ago.

        Any help?

        1. Fagstein Post author

          I cannot from those numbers determine what part of the population is actively listening to radio.

          According to Numeris, 86% of the population listens to the radio at least once a week. Of the tuning hours, about half are at home, a third are in a car and 20% at work.

          I don’t think hold music represents a significant amount of radio tuning hours.

          So there is no way to determine if CJAD’s 30% share is as good as a 25% share was 5 or 10 years ago.

          You can compare the average minute audiences. Unfortunately Numeris only recently started including those in the top-line numbers, so we don’t have much history to go on yet.

          1. dilbert

            “I don’t think hold music represents a significant amount of radio tuning hours.”

            Music on hold, music in a restaurant, coffee shop, store, etc. The distribution 50/30/20 doesn’t seem to have much space for that.

            I find the “listen at home” number to be a high percentage, I would have thought (considering the morning show and drive home numbers) that most people got their radio in the car or on their way to and from work.

    2. Brett

      I tend to listen to the digital streams on the iHeart Radio app because Bell does nothing locally to improve it’s stations. Their digital even if its from the American iHeart, are way better then anything local. I love their stations Lite Rock (AC 80s to Now) and the Beat ( New/Classic hip hop & rnb). Any of those formats would do better in Montreal .

  17. Nick

    Bell should look at what digital streams on the iheart App are popular in Montreal and move a local version to 95.9 If people are listing on the app they will listen on 95.9 to save data if done right.

  18. Brett M

    Star 92.9 from Burlington is my choice for radio in Montreal. They have a much better mix of music. I’m sure many in market who miss that sound on English radio listen to them like I do.

    If 95.9 switched to a 90s to now like Star 92.9 I would defiantly tune in.


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