Since 92.5 FM in Montreal became The Beat in 2011, the station has made much of its staff lineup by poaching personalities from direct competitor Virgin Radio. Cat Spencer, Vinny Barrucco and Nat Lauzon were hired directly from Virgin, and Nikki Balch and Rob Kemp also previously worked at 1717 René-Lévesque Blvd. (for Virgin and CHOM, respectively).
With The Beat’s ratings being solidly ahead of Virgin for what seems to be a sustainable period, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bell Media hit back.
This week we learned that it has poached from the top, hiring Martin Tremblay to lead the Énergie, Rouge FM and Virgin Radio Montreal stations. Tremblay was hired as interim program director at The Beat a year ago. Before that, he spent six years in what is basically the same job he’s now going back to, leading the Montreal French music stations and Virgin at Astral and then Bell Media.
His CV also includes plenty of work for radio stations as part of his consulting company Oumf! Communications. They include:
- Helping RNC Media create a Rythme FM affiliate in Gatineau, which lasted two and a half years until RNC decided to rebrand it as WOW FM.
- Helping Attraction Radio turn CKRS-FM in Saguenay into another Rythme FM affiliate.
- Helping RNC Media turn CHOA-FM in Abitibi into yet another Rythme FM affiliate.
- Helping RNC transforming its struggling CKLX-FM into 91.9 Sports in Montreal, and later turning Capitale Rock 96.5 in Gatineau into a partial affiliate of it. While 91.9 Sports is going strong and RNC finally seems happy with that format, the Gatineau station has dropped sports programming and is now Pop 96.5.
- Launching Groupe Puissance Média, an ad sales group that works with both RNC Media and Cogeco Media TV and radio outlets in the Outaouais region.
- Work for Rogers’s Kiss 105.3 in Ottawa.
Tremblay starts his new job Aug. 7. Like the on-air personalities who made the jump, he’s bound by the terms of a non-compete clause in his contract that prevents him from working for Bell Media right away. “So enjoying my free time,” he tells me.
I asked Bell Media how this affects existing management at these stations. Mark Bergman is the current program director at VIrgin Radio. Will his role change?
“We have no comments to make at this time,” was the response from Bell Media communications director Simon Céré. I also asked Bergman and Martin Spalding, who heads local TV and radio in Quebec, for comment, and will update this if I hear back.
Chris Bury takes over PD role at CHOM
Meanwhile, the other three radio stations at Bell Media in Montreal will all come under the control of Chris Bury, currently the PD for CJAD and TSN 690.
“As CHOM’s Assistant Program Director and Music Director, Picard will work directly with Chris,” notes a memo to staff.
Bury’s expanded duties means that more will be delegated to CJAD/TSN 690 Assistant Program Director Mathew Wood, who takes on a larger role at TSN.
“Mathew will now handle day-to-day responsibilities at TSN 690 and Picard will continue to do that for CHOM,” Bury explains to me by email. “I’ll be involved in brainstorming, strategy, long-term planning, major decisions etc.”
I asked Bury if we should expect any changes at CHOM with this announcement. “It’s too early to get specific but, for me, the general goal is always the same: produce the most compelling content possible — as consistently as you can,” he responded. “That can mean introducing new segments or features or executing the ones we have a little more effectively.”
“I’ll add that… It’s an honour to be working on CHOM, in any way. The station carries a powerful legacy in Montreal. And the team at CHOM are as passionate about their station as anyone else. I’m excited to get going and to help however I can. And, although I do have some music programming experience, there will certainly be a learning curve. It’ll be a fun challenge.”
These management changes took effect immediately when they were announced to staff earlier this week. CHOM has been without a program director since the death of André Lallier in 2015.
Meanwhile, at The Beat, there are decisions to make. The station is led by general manager Luc Tremblay, who was also hired as head of digital strategy at Cogeco Media last June.