The network of Véro, Mitsou and Sébastien Benoit is continuing to grow.
Owner Cogeco Diffusion announced on Tuesday that it has added an affiliate in the Abitibi region to the Rythme FM brand, expanding it to seven stations throughout Quebec.
CHOA-FM, which operates at 96.5 FM in Rouyn-Noranda, 103.5 FM in Val-d’Or and 103.9 FM in La Sarre, is owned by RNC Média and operates under the Planète brand. The changeover is expected to happen on March 9.
Like other Rythme FM affiliates, the Abitibi station will carry the noon-hour show hosted by Mitsou Gélinas and Sébastien Benoit, and the afternoon drive show hosted by Véronique Cloutier. Its morning show and daytime programming before and after lunch, will be local. The station promises no reduction in local programming, and that announcers Isabelle Harvey, Amélie Pomerleau and Véronique Aubin will remain with the station.
CHOA is the third station in six months to add itself to the Rythme FM family. CHLX-FM 97.1 in Gatineau, another Planète station, became Rythme FM Outaouais in August. CKRS-FM 98.3 in Saguenay and CKGS-FM 105.5 in La Baie, owned by Attraction Radio, are also adding themselves to the Rythme FM network on Feb. 9.
CKRS, a station formerly owned by Corus but which wasn’t sold to Cogeco, had until recently been a talk station, but last month got approval for a licence amendment allowing it to switch to music.
The expansion gives the Rythme FM network a presence in most major regions of Quebec: Montreal, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Abitibi and Saguenay, plus CIME-FM in the Laurentians, which is part of the Rythme FM brand but doesn’t carry its network programming.
The big missing link here is Quebec City. CJEC-FM 91.9 used to be a Rythme station, but when Cogeco bought Corus it was forced to sell the station. New owner Leclerc Communication eventually rebranded it WKND. Convincing it to return to the Rythme FM brand would be the most obvious choice, since it’s the only adult-contemporary music station there not owned by Bell Media. Cogeco could also rebrand M 102.9, its classic hits station in Lévis. But since that station just adopted that brand, it’s probably not in their plans.
It might also look to expand in the Bas-Saint-Laurent (Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski), Centre-du-Québec (Drummondville, Victoriaville) and Gaspésie regions. Attraction has other stations that might fit the bill, but others are owned by smaller companies that might be less interested in replacing local shows with Véro.