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Gregory Charles sells Radio Classique to Leclerc to be turned into pop music station

This post has been corrected.

Last year, when Quebec City’s Leclerc Communication agreed to buy two radio stations from RNC Media, fans of Montreal’s 91.9 Sports (CKLX-FM) were upset that the new owner planned to turn their sports-talk station into a popular music station with the same format as Quebec City’s WKND (coincidentally also at 91.9).

The transaction failed because the CRTC wouldn’t agree to Leclerc buying CHOI-FM in the provincial capital while holding on to WKND and Blvd 102.1.

Now, Leclerc is trying again, and this one will probably prompt even more upset listeners. It has agreed to purchase Radio Classique 99.5 from Gregory Charles, and will turn it into a WKND station instead.

The transaction does not include CJSQ-FM 92.7, Radio Classique’s sister station in Quebec City, which will remain in Charles’s hands, as will the radioclassique.ca website. Charles says in an interview with La Presse that he hopes to find a different buyer for that station to turn it into something else as well.

Shortly after the announcement, the CRTC published the associated application, which sets the purchase price at $3.88 million. That’s only 57% of the $6.78 million it was priced at when Charles bought it in 2015.

While there’s no Quebec City element that would cause competition concerns, CJPX is required by condition of licence to operate in a specialty format, and Leclerc is applying for a change in its licence to remove that requirement. The commission may or may not be crazy about replacing a specialty music station with a loyal audience with yet another pop station, as much as Leclerc promises its format is different.

In the meantime, it’s status quo at Radio Classique in Montreal, just as it was with 91.9 Sports.

Gregory Charles bought CJPX and CJSQ from founder Jean-Pierre Coallier in 2015. Charles admitted in the La Presse interview that he paid too much for the station at the time. But he also said he wasn’t looking to sell until Leclerc came to him with an offer.

Charles also seems to suggest that he thinks CJSQ can still be a success without its bigger brother, which would be quite a challenge, especially considering how much content is shared between the two stations. He says the Quebec City market is more stable, while most of the Montreal audience listens online.

For tangible benefits, Leclerc is proposing the usual 6% minimum, broken down in the standard way between music development funds, the Community Radio Fund of Canada and discretionary initiatives that haven’t been determined yet. The total comes out to $293,350 over seven years, but Leclerc is also proposing to take over $219,514 of the $340,121 remaining in tangible benefits from that 2015 transaction (the rest will stay with Charles and CJSQ).

The deal also includes $100,000 worth of advertising for Charles on CJPX in the two years after it closes.

Will the CRTC accept the transaction? It’s hard to tell, and will depend on the resistance it meets. Previous attempts to transform 91.9 Sports and TSN 690 failed not because of angry submissions by loyal fans, but because they were part of larger transactions that failed to go through.

The commission is also usually reluctant to replace a specialty station with a pop music station unless it can be demonstrated that the only alternative is the station shutting down.

With CJPX, that argument could be made. The application says the station has not made money since it was purchased (exact numbers are confidential) and “has no hope of recovery without a repositioning of the station.” Its already modest advertising revenues were $2 million in 2012-13 and $1.3 million in 2017-18.

Radio Classique CJPX-FM average minute audience 2015-17 (Source: Numeris)

And despite efforts by Charles, including bringing in celebrity hosts like Bernard Derome and Marc Hervieux, the station’s audience share has tumbled 20-30% in five years, depending how you count it. In 2017 it stopped subscribing to Numeris ratings.

If the commission can be convinced that there aren’t other options for the continued survival of a classical radio station in Montreal, or that a third player in the mainstream commercial music space is more important, then it would likely approve the transaction and licence change.

The application has been posted and the CRTC is accepting interventions until Dec. 19 (note that all information submitted, including contact information, becomes part of the public record). The application is being officially heard (though so far without the presence of the parties) at the same Feb. 12 hearing in Montreal when it is considering the proposed purchase of V by Bell Media.

See also: I summarize the application and provide more context in this story for Cartt.ca, available to its subscribers.

Correction: An earlier version of this post quoted La Presse as saying Gregory Charles wants to keep his Quebec City station. In fact, the story says he wants to sell that station as well.

Radio Classique relaunches, hires Bernard Derome as new morning man

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

Radio Classique fait peau neuve. The classical music stations in Montreal and Quebec City have a new owner in Gregory Charles, a new logo, a new website and a new slate of on-air hosts. But as Charles explains, the music is the same and the new group wants to maintain the same passion.

The station’s schedule is posted, but contained a mysterious omission of 6-9am Monday to Thursday. Today we learn through the Journal de Montréal that Charles is putting a big-name hire into that slot: Former Radio-Canada anchor Bernard Derome. He starts on Monday, and will be joined by collaborators who will offer local news updates (the station had promised three minutes of national and international news and one minute of local news each hour during the morning show).

Derome seems to be a pretty good fit for the station, and a great get. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this hire is that the retired 71-year-old would be willing to get up four days a week and be in a studio for 6am.

radioclassiqueOther hosts on the schedule are mainly people who were at the station before:

Plus Charles himself, hosting from noon to 1pm weekdays, repeating at 5am.

Names we no longer see include Raymond Desmarteau, Chantal Lavoie, Julie Bélanger, Karen Hader and the Coalliers — Jean-Pierre, Marc-André and Claude-Michel. (Claude-Michel Coallier is still on the ad sales team.)

UPDATE: La Presse stories on Derome and other changes at Radio Classique.

UPDATE (Jan. 24, 2016): Derome, Charles and Hervieux were interviewed on Tout le monde en parle, in part about Radio Classique.

Gregory Charles looks to add classic jazz to Radio Classique, simulcast more, host his own show

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

Almost half a year after the announcement that a company owned by musician Gregory Charles has agreed to buy Radio Classique stations CJPX-FM 99.5 Montreal and CJSQ-FM 92.7 Quebec City, the CRTC has published the application for a transfer of ownership, and we have some details about the sale and his plans for the stations.

The application confirms a purchase price of $10.5 million for the two stations — $6.78 million for CJPX and $3.72 million for CJSQ. The purchase is $7 million in cash and $3.5 million in shares in the new company that must be repurchased by the buyer within four years. There’s also a consulting contract of $8,750 a month ($420,000 total over four years) for existing ownership so long as they still have those shares. The purchase is an acquisition of assets rather than a purchase of the companies that own the stations. There’s also a non-competition clause that lasts three years preventing the current owners from owning or managing a broadcasting or online radio station, or soliciting clients.

The new owner will be Média ClassiQ inc., controlled 100% by Gregory Charles. The stations are currently owned 90% by Jean-Pierre Coallier and 10% by Pierre Barbeau.

If CRTC approval is not acquired by Dec. 31, either party can terminate the agreement, with the buyer paying a $100,000 penalty to the seller.

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Gregory Charles agrees to buy Radio Classique from JP Coallier

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

The studios and offices of CJPX 99.5 Montreal, at Jean-Drapeau Park

Radio Classique, which operates classical music stations in Montreal (CJPX-FM 99.5) and Quebec City (CJSQ-FM 92.7), is being sold to Groupe Musique Greg, the company owned by Quebec personality Gregory Charles.

The acquisition price is unknown (the Journal de Montréal says it’s more than $10 million), but should be made public when the CRTC publishes the application to change the ownership of the stations. (The sale can’t be final until the commission approves it.) Legally, the two stations are owned by separate companies, Radio Classique Montréal Inc. and Radio Classique Québec Inc., both of whom are controlled 90% by Jean-Pierre Coallier and 10% by Pierre Barbeau.

Radio Classique launched in Montreal in 1998, and the Quebec station in 2007. I’d been hearing rumours for a few years now that Coallier, who turned 77 last month, was looking to find a new owner for the stations. Charles heard those rumours too, and told Les Affaires that’s why he initiated talks for a purchase. This transaction would keep one of Montreal’s few independent commercial radio stations in independent (and artistic) hands.

It’s unclear what Charles and his company plan to do with the stations (he wouldn’t tell the Journal if he plans to become an on-air personality at the station), but they are unlikely to change formats, at least in the near term. Charles says he acquired the stations because of their niche format, which the major broadcasters won’t touch. Getting rid of classical music and replacing it with Katy Perry would be disastrous for its reputation, and it would likely lose more listeners than it gained.

The stations operate as specialty-format stations, and CRTC approval would be needed before they could convert to pop, rock, dance or country music formats. CJSQ has a specific condition of licence limiting 90% of its content to “concert” music, defined as classical music, opera, operetta and musical theatre.

The latest ratings information from Numeris shows CJPX-FM in Montreal had a 2.7% share among francophones and a 1.8% share among anglophones, while CJSQ-FM in Quebec City had a 4.6% share total.

Radio-Canada is stealing our advertiser, CJPX complains to CRTC

When CBC/Radio-Canada asked the CRTC for permission to air advertising on radio, one of the things it promised is that it would only solicit national advertisers, not local ones, to limit how much it competes with local commercial radio stations.

Well, less than a month after ads started airing, one of those commercial stations has complained that the public broadcaster is soliciting local advertising.

On Thursday, the CRTC published a two-page complaint (.zip) dated Oct. 29 from Jean-Pierre Coallier, owner of CJPX Radio Classique in Montreal. In it, Coallier complains that one of its local advertisers, the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, took out ads on Espace Musique. Because it’s a local organization that only wants to attract a local or regional audience, Coallier argues, it doesn’t fit the definition of national advertising.

According to the decision that renewed the CBC’s licence and allowed it to air advertising on Radio Two and Espace Musique, national advertising is defined as “advertising material that is purchased by a company or organization that has a national interest in reaching the Canadian consumer.” It was also expected that in general national advertising would be booked through advertising agencies, which Coallier says was not done here.

Radio-Canada disagrees with Coallier’s interpretation. Spokesperson Marie Tétreault told me that there was an agency here, Groupe Force Radio (which is owned by Cogeco and represents Espace Musique in Quebec).

Tétreault said the ads for the MCA aired on Espace Musique stations in Montreal, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Rimouski, Saguenay and Ottawa. Basically, throughout Quebec and the national capital region but not elsewhere in the country.

“These ads fully respect the conditions of licence of Espace Musique,” Tétreault said.

It’s worth noting that the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, in its filing in the CBC case, pointed out that its definition of national advertising was vague, and worried that it might allow some local advertising. This would seem to be a good example, regardless of how the commission rules.

Comments on the complaint are due by Dec. 16. Tétreault said that Radio-Canada would give details of its position in its submission, which will be filed on that date.

If you want to file your own submission, you can do so by clicking here.

Fall radio ratings: CHOM and CJPX gain, The Beat and TSN lose, Radio X struggles (UPDATED)

Fall 2012 ratings from BBM Canada for the anglo Montreal market (Aug. 27 to Nov. 25), with comparisons to the same period a year ago. (Numbers reflect total 2+ audience)

BBM Canada released its fall 2012 ratings for metered markets (including Montreal) on Thursday. While members get detailed information from which they can spin all sorts of good news, the public gets an overall picture (PDF).

On the English side, there’s the usual fluctuations. CHOM gains a point and a half compared to last year (but is down slightly in market share compared to the summer), and also has a larger overall audience than it did a year ago.

CJAD, Virgin and The Beat are also up slightly, and CBC Radio One has lost a bit.

Among francophone listeners, where anglo music stations actually have a larger audience than in English, CHOM has 30,000 more listeners on a daily basis than it did a year ago, and Virgin and The Beat have both lost a bit of ground.

I await their spin, revealing what nuggets of significant gains aren’t being reflected in the overall ratings. (See below)

For TSN Radio (CKGM), there’s no getting around the disappointing ratings period. The station has a 2.3% market share this fall, down from 4.0% a year ago. Its daily audience among anglos has dropped from 60,000 to 43,000. Even simulcasting on two frequencies hasn’t been enough to compensate for the lack of NHL hockey.

The Beat falls among 25-54 demos

But those are for the total audience. What about the key 25-54 demographic, the people with money that advertisers want?

Astral Radio’s BBM analysis (which is much more objective than its press releases) provides the answer:

CKBE (The Beat) has lost the gains it made this spring, falling back into third place overall behind CHOM. It has a 21% commercial market share among adults 25-54, compared to CHOM’s 25% and Virgin’s 32%. Much of that loss is among men, where it had spiked to 22% in the spring but is now back at 16%. Among women, it’s gone down slightly, but Virgin’s lead has increased from four points to 13 points.

Its morning show has dropped back into fourth place after barely reaching second in the spring, with fewer than 7,000 listeners in the average minute (Virgin’s morning show has more than 10,000 listeners) among adults 25-54. Late mornings and lunch hour have dropped from first to third, and early afternoons dropped from first to second behind Virgin. Its drivetime show also dropped from second to third after losing about a quarter of its audience from the spring. On weekends, it was third before and remains so.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is average listening time: 3.1 hours per week, putting it behind CJAD, CHOM and Virgin, which are all between 4 and 4.5 hours a week.

Overall, it’s an awful ratings period for The Beat, bringing them back to what they were at before their notable gains in the spring. That explains why their press release (below) doesn’t mention any numbers.

CJFM (Virgin Radio) is still No. 1 in most key demographics. Among women 25-54, they’re at 41% market share. Its biggest gain is in late mornings and early afternoons, where Nikki Balch and Ryan Seacrest respectively have picked up almost 3,000 average-minute listeners from the spring. Virgin also made significant gains at morning and afternoon drive. It’s now the top station during the morning rush and from 11am to 8pm weekdays among adults 25-54.

Its strength remains in younger audiences – the top nine shows among adults 18-34 are all on Virgin.

CHOM still gets to brag that it’s No. 1 among men, and its market share among men 25-54 has gone up to 35%, though much of that probably has to do with the lack of hockey pushing TSN Radio listeners back to their backup radio option. CHOM has also jumped ahead of The Beat for second place among all adults 25-54.

The morning show with Terry DiMonte and Heather Backman now has about 10,000 listeners 25-54 in the average minute, good for second place after being behind The Beat and CJAD in different ratings periods. It continues a steady climb from 8,000 a year ago and 7,000 the year before that. CHOM’s morning show audience has grown 50% in two years, but still isn’t the high peak of the day. Among men 25-54, there are only about half as many listeners at 7am as there are at 11am.

Tootall had a great ratings report, with the late morning part of his show gaining 20% audience since the spring and now the top-rated show at CHOM. The lunch hour and afternoon parts had more modest gains. The afternoon drive show with Bilal Butt gained slightly to its highest average-minute audience in two years, but it’s still a distant second to Virgin and mired in a tight three-way race with The Beat and CJAD. Even among men 25-54, the show struggles to compete with Virgin and CJAD.

On weekends, CHOM dipped slightly, but it’s still a clear second, and it’s fighting with Virgin for top spot among men 25-54 on weekend afternoons.

CJAD’s numbers didn’t change much. Astral brags about its high-rated morning show, but it’s still third among adults 25-54 (its strength is earlier in the morning, and it dominates the ratings until about 7am). The lunchtime show with Ric Peterson made a significant jump from 2,500 to 3,500 listeners in the demo (but still well behind the three music stations), and the afternoon drive show with Aaron Rand also gained more than a thousand listeners in the 25-54 demo. Rather than fighting TSN for fourth place, it’s fighting CHOM and The Beat for second.

Among all audiences, CJAD is still the top rated station among English listeners, and has the five top-rated shows.

CKGM (TSN 690) is clearly wishing for hockey to come back. Among men 25-54, it has a 7% market share, about half what it did a year ago. Every major time slot is down, and its hopes of competing with CJAD in some of them (notably afternoon drive) are gone for now.

Radio X disappoints

On the French side, not much has changed from a year ago. CHMP 98.5 is still the No. 1 station with a 22.5% market share, followed by CFGL (Rythme FM, 18.6%), CITE (Rouge FM, 12.3%, up more than two points from a year ago) and CBF (Première Chaîne, 11.3%).

NRJ (CKMF) and CKOI continue to be stuck in the single digits, with CKOI hitting a new market share low of 5.7%, even though it’s third-highest in total weekly audience reach. At this point, CKOI barely beats out classical music station CJPX, which has grown a point and a half in French and gained 30,000 daily listeners since last year.

NRJ’s market share is 7.1%, down from 10.3% a year ago.

The most interesting information on the franco side concerns CKLX-FM 91.9, which went from being Planète Jazz to Radio X this fall. Reports that ratings had actually dropped as a result of the change have turned out to be true. Planète Jazz had a 1.3% market share, 64,300 daily listeners and 902,800 weekly listeners a year ago. In the summer, it had a 1.2% share, 62,700 daily listeners and 944,800 weekly listeners. But in its first ratings period as Radio X, it has a 0.8% market share, 54,500 daily listeners and 640,100 weekly listeners.

Radio X, in other words, has only 2/3  the audience that Planète Jazz had, after a programming change designed to bring in more listeners.

Radio X, owned by RNC Media, will counter that this kind of change takes time to build an audience, though that’s not necessarily true.

To be fair, it also made some gains in the key 25-54 demos. Its morning show and afternoon drive gained quite a bit, while early afternoons took a nosedive. Weekends show a significant increase during the hours when it airs rock music (we’re still waiting for a CRTC decision on an application to strip it of its specialty jazz status – until then it has to devote 70% of its music to the jazz/blues format).

Overall, though, the station’s ratings are very poor, behind even Radio Classique (CJPX) and fighting for last place with Radio Circulation (CKAC).

Big gains for Radio Classique

While not much has changed for the other commercial radio stations in French in Montreal, there’s a noticeable increase in the ratings for CJPX Radio Classique, particularly among men.

Consider this: During the lunch hour, it had 630 average-minute listeners this spring, but 4,730 this fall, an astounding increase of 651%. It had similar jumps during all hours of the day, except afternoon drive where it saw a mere doubling of audience.

It makes sense to assume that Radio Classique picked up many former Planète Jazz listeners, but its increases are larger than CKLX’s entire audience was. Is there something else at play here, or is this just a case of sampling error spouting out random variation in small numbers?

Either way, Radio Classique beats out Radio X in all time periods among the 25-54 demo. Radio Classique’s overall commercial market share among 25-54 is 3%, up from 1% in the spring.

More ratings coverage

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