Radio ratings: Virgin fails to catch up, CJAD in long-term decline

Numeris has released its top-line PPM ratings data for Nov. 25 to Feb. 23.

The numbers for Montreal show little change from the previous quarter, or the past few years, really, with CJAD at the top among anglophones and CHMP-FM 98,5 ahead among francophones.

This lack of change is bad news for Virgin Radio 95.9, which spent a lot of effort promoting its new morning show hosted by Vinny Barrucco and Shannon King. We’re two full quarters into this change and The Beat still has twice the audience of Virgin. The sacking of program director Mark Bergman (who’s now at The Beat) and Freeway and Natasha haven’t moved the overall numbers.

Meanwhile, down the hall at CJAD, the long-term trend continues downward. In 2015, the average minute audience overall (averaged over 24/7) was 15,000. Now it’s around 12,000.

The Beat, CBC, CHOM and TSN 690 have kept about flat over that time, and haven’t shown any major change this winter.

On the francophone side, Rythme FM is continuing to re-establish itself as the dominant music station after facing more competition from Rouge, and 98,5fm is holding off Radio-Canada.


Meanwhile, in Toronto, TSN 1050 finally beat Sportsnet’s 590 The Fan with its morning and afternoon shows (among men 25-54 anyway), which Toronto Sports Media notes has a lot to do with how unstable The Fan’s lineup has been.

23 thoughts on “Radio ratings: Virgin fails to catch up, CJAD in long-term decline

  1. Dorothy

    Can’t recall if it was Steve or a poster who has noted that it’s not just audience share but whether listeners are spending less time staying with a station once it’s on their dial. That’s true for me: I count as one of the anglos in CJAD’s audience, but over the last few years have significantly reduced my listening time.

  2. Zeke


    Given the state of radio, I’m not certain you need to go back five years to show significant trends.

    I think two to three years should be more than sufficient. Or whenever Bell became the Overlord.

    Personally, over the past three years I’ve switched my morning and afternoon drive listening from CBC Radio One to Radio Canada Premiere, and my off hour listening from a combination of CJAD and TSN to WEAV 960 The Zone.

    In short I think that Montreal Anglo Radio overall is in free-fall. It would be interesting to see if the ad spending is in as dire straits as the listenership.

  3. Anonymous

    CJAD: I think has two issues: 1 – a certain portion of the audience is dying off and not getting replaced by younger listeners, and 2 – the key tune in points for many (weather, traffic, news, sports) are equally available on other stations at similar levels, and with other Bell stations, provided by the same people. Have they killed off reasons to even bother tuning in?

    Virgin: more of their listeners are on the Franco side (5.6 versus 4.5 AMA), which would suggest that the on air personalities could be irrelevant. Anglos have tuned out in droves. It may be time for them to wave the white flag, surrender the direct market to the Beat, and rebrand the station with at least a marginally different play list and style. Simply put, the Beat is giving them a beat down.

    Beat: Not only killing Virgin, the Beat also attracts a total listenership (anglo and franco) far ahead of “market leader” CJAD. Unlike Virgin, their anglo numbers are higher than their Franco numbers, which could be taken to say that people are relating to their on air staff better or are relating to their presentation better. Given similar play lists and styles, it would seem to be the differentiating features.

    The real remaining question is the Bell effect. Has the sharing of news, weather, traffic, and sports taken away the need or desire by the public to change stations to get the things they want? Is it more and more exposing any weaknesses in CJAD’s talk shows / hosts? Has this stopped the tradition migration of listeners away from music stations and towards talk / news stations as they age?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Virgin: more of their listeners are on the Franco side (5.6 versus 4.5 AMA), which would suggest that the on air personalities could be irrelevant.

      The music stations have a large francophone audience just because the francophone market is so much larger than the anglophone one in Montreal. “Irrelevant” would be an exaggeration, but the music matters more than the personalities, certainly.

      1. Anonymous

        If that is the case, the play list on Virgin and The Beat is pretty much the same. That would mean it is down to personalities, presentation, and sound. Why would the Beat have a significantly higher portion otherwise?

    2. Robert

      The Beat wins by default. They have no Morning Show to compete against since Freeway and Natasha’s departure. Also, Virgin plays bad music. Not like the Beat’s is that much better but it’s good enough to still destroy Virgin’s playlist. Both stations have mediocre to below average on-air talent. It’s actually sad to see such a Popular Canadian Radio market become so bad in less than a few years. Today’s younger Montrealers have no clue what they missed in the decades prior. I doubt millennials even listen to radio today.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why do advertisers care about the mother tongue of the audience?

      For one thing that affects the language of the advertisement. There are many bilingual people in Montreal but advertisers still treat it as two separate markets.

  4. DerekC

    Gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that the explosion of music streaming services, audio books, podcasts and, perhaps to a lesser extent, commercial-free satellite radio… plus the advent of Blue Tooth technology that allows you to bring all of this with you wherever you go, might be making some dent in traditional radio audience share. Or to put it another way, I grew up glued to Top 40 radio, Casey Kasem, CKGM, and evenings with Dave Van Horne and the Expos. I would wager that the two teenagers in my home today couldn’t name the cal letters for a single Montreal radio station. Yet they are disproportionately well-versed in the latest You Tube stars, Netflix series,Tik Tok videos, etc.

  5. Anonymous

    Anon wrote: CJAD: I think has two issues: 1 – a certain portion of the audience is dying off and not getting replaced by younger listeners, and 2 – the key tune in points for many (weather, traffic, news, sports) are equally available on other stations …

    Listeners today will use a smart phone for weather, traffic, news, sports so I’m not sure how relevant in 2020 those tune in points are. The older end of the audience may still tune in for those reasons but that’s rapidly disappearing as a reason.

  6. faamtl

    I think although I haven’t listened to CJAD in years is the reason the numbers are dropping is most of their listeners are older people and many may have moved to other cities to be with their children and others being older have passed on.
    I was at one time a 690 listener but stopped as I find the quality of the on air people have gone down hill especially with all the good talent they have let go. Also their give ways questions to me don’t make sense as a sports station the questions should be on sports like Elliot Price did not based on food, music etc.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Any sense that this could be the summer that TSN radio gets flipped to French language RDS?

      That won’t happen. Bell learned its lesson the first time.

  7. Asa

    ,Oh how the mighty are falling, The Bell properties are a real bore. Whether it’s CHOM and it’s limited playlist, Virgin-who cares, and good old CJAD and it’s catering to milenials, it’s all a bore.
    Everytime I listen to the big 800, I always feel like I’m being talked down to. Don’t need any of this.

  8. Asa

    Geez, how the mighty are falling. All the Bell properties keep on sinking. CHOM with it’s restrictive playlists, Virgin with whatever they’re all about, and finally CJAD the heritage station that has rested on it’s laurels far too long. They do not cater to their main audience anymore, they get rid of veteran talent, and when I do listen, I feel like I’m being talked down to. I guess this what happens when one group owns almost everything.

  9. Gazoo

    Not surprised at all about CJAD. Rid of a dedicated weather person in the morning along with Sports person (Shaun Starr tapes a segment which gets replayed every 25 minutes).
    Then Natasha show is from 12-2 to get switched for national broadcast of Evan Solomon show. So they flip time slots.

    Rarely listen to this station anymore.
    Use to listen to TSN690 but no longer in the morning either. Sadly since they let Elliot Price go a few years back, the two on that time slot well…

    I find myself bouncing around and often heading to satellite radio these days.

  10. Robert

    Love how Virgin lost even more audience share after dumping their decade long morning show. If anyone deserves to be fired, it’s the genius behind that decision.

  11. Mario D.

    There is no such thing as a new generation of hosts in the anglo market in Mtl. Sure ! Plenty of djs though ! So when you give a guy a meaningful time slot like that McKenna guy on TSN you get a know it all navel gazing type of boring show. At some point you need to have on air personalities that have seen rain ! That’s why removing Price from the morning show was a baaaad move. But the lack of a new generation applies to most English radio stations in MTL. CJAD knew that and took advantage that they were by far on top of the market. For all the reasons others has cited, things are falling apart now. In a very near future, most of the content will come from outside Montreal by a fake look alike type local product. Thanks ma BELL ! So for moi still listening to good ole CHOM FM and for information purposes to CBC radio one . All the rest is for me the same recipe ,same music Virgin, i-heart, rouge, rythme . Nothing original.

  12. Anonymous

    Content, content, content!

    If there is a downward trend with certain stations, it’s all because the content is not worth listening to. CJAD in particular is a swamp of mediocrity. That station will need to clean house in order to change the on air content. Or some competition.

    CJFM 95.9 needs a format change.
    Better yet Bell Media should just sell if off to another station group.
    Unload this loser. You don’t seem to know what to do with it anyway.

    I listen to a lot of music (SiriusXM), and at least two podcasts a day. News Talk podcast from people who have something to say, and something to learn about current News events. Not people who will waste my time, and parrot the usual talking points of the day.

    Three major station groups running this radio market. Bell Media & Cogeco Media, and CBC/SRC. More options are needed. Give the listeners more options, or they’ll go find them somewhere else. Not too complicated to figure that out.


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