Tag Archives: rebranding

Bell Media kills Bob FM in Ottawa, turns it into country station

Bob FM OttawaIt’s been almost eight months since the last time an Ottawa radio station suddenly abandoned its format and pissed off its listeners, so I guess it was time to do it again.

On Monday evening, Bell Media, owner of CKKL-FM (Bob FM) announced via the station’s website and Facebook page that the station is no more.

“Market conditions have changed, and it’s time for us to pursue a new opportunity,” reads the vague message, which suggests not so much a shutdown but a rebrand and format change.

Brief announcements on the station that said “something new is coming” confirmed this.

Bob FM is an “adult hits” format, meaning songs your parents remember (or you remember if you’re a parent yourself).

newcountry94On Wednesday morning, a press release announced that the new station, to be launched today, will be called New Country 94, and will be a country music station. (Its webiste is newcountry94.com, registered on Oct. 9.)

The new format puts it up against Rogers station New Country 101.1 FM (CKBY-FM) in Smiths Falls, whose 100kW signal reaches Ottawa but also places like Renfrew and Brockville.

Five on-air staff let go

The change means that five on-air personalities have lost their jobs, according to The Canadian Press. But they will be replaced with new talent.

Among those laid off is John Mielke, the owner of Milkman Unlimited, which posts job opportunities at radio stations in Canada. He posted an update to that website about his own job cut.

The Ottawa Citizen has some online reaction from fans about the disappearance of Bob FM. They also have this story looking into the business of the Ottawa radio market and this timeline of major changes at local stations.

Ratings information from Numeris this spring showed the station with a 2.6% share, or about the middle of the pack for English-language music stations. But the share was in decline, which might have convinced management that a change in format was the way to go.

That same data showed Country 101 having a 6.1% share in the Ottawa market.

Radio X Montreal rebrands as Radio 9

Louis Lemieux, former weekend morning host at RDI, is the new morning man at "Radio 9"

Louis Lemieux, former weekend morning host at RDI, is the new morning man at “Radio 9”

Radio X is officially dead in Montreal. As of Tuesday, 9/9, the station at 91.9 FM is known as “Radio 9“.

The rebrand of the RNC Média-owned station comes with several personalities leaving and several others joining on. Dominic Maurais’s Maurais Live remains syndicated from CHOI Radio X in Quebec City. Caroline Proulx also sticks around, hosting the midday show.

The station, which finally got approval in April to become a mainly talk station and drop jazz music, follows a similar schedule from the Radio X days, with original talk programs only during the day on weekdays.

Jean-Charles Lajoie hosts the afternoon show, which is now completely focused on sports, clearly trying to fill the void left by the disappearance of CKAC Sports in 2011, a station Lajoie worked for in those days.

Evenings feature repeats of Proulx and Maurais. Overnights and weekends are rock music, according to the schedule (though I’m listening to it at 12:30am and I’m hearing repeats of talk shows).

Though management insists this isn’t a right-wing station, its programming is clearly supposed to be populist. It reminds me of what was done at 940 News after the all-news format failed. Hopefully it won’t have the same fate.

Stories about the rebrand at La Presse, Canoe and the Huffington Post.

Radio stations rebranded in Cornwall, Quebec City

Less than a year after Mark Dickie was put in charge of Corus Radio’s four stations in Ottawa and Cornwall, three of them have new brands and the fourth has a new lineup.

On Monday, Corus announced the rebranding of the two Cornwall stations. CJSS 101.9 became Boom 101.9, and CFLG 104.5 went from Variety 104 to 104.5 Fresh FM. Their music (classic hits and top 40, respectively) remains the same.

In March, Corus killed Ottawa’s 106.9 The Bear, replacing the rock station with the new brand Jump! The other Ottawa station, Boom 99.7, put a new lineup in place this week that includes former Montreal broadcasters Pete Marier and Murray Sherriffs.

Boom is actually a former Astral Media (now Bell Media) brand, used for two Montérégie stations. It’s also used on CHBM-FM Toronto, which was sold to Newcap Radio as part of required Bell/Astral divestments. So we have one brand being used by five radio stations owned by three different companies in two languages.

More music (seriously) in Quebec City

In Quebec City, Cogeco’s CFOM-FM 102.9 has rebranded as M FM, with a focus on more music, fewer on-air hosts, no contests and fewer “irritants”, the Journal de Québec reports.

The station is keeping its classic hits format, but according to the Journal has reduced its music library to focus on hits.

The keep-it-music-stupid focus is reflected on the station’s website, which is pretty bare-bones.

It might also be a response to stations like Quebec City’s NRJ, which brought in Jeff Fillion to do a noon talk show and saw ratings for that hour skyrocket.

More rebrands

Other radio stations are also getting rebrands, since this is the season for that just before fall:

R.I.P. Mix 96

Virgin 96

In case you haven’t heard, Mix 96 ends today. In what is no doubt a bid to save some money, CJFM 95.9 is rebranding itself a Virgin Radio station (on orders from owner Astral Media). The change will take place at a time that for some stupid reason has been kept secret until later this morning, but will definitely be “during the day” today. (UPDATE: 4pm, you can watch the countdown in case you’ve forgotten how to count to 4pm)

Because the entire identity of the station is changing, anything with the word “mix” in it has to be replaced. They’ll have a new logo, new station IDs, new vans, a new website and even a new call-in number.

The format is saying the same (“Today’s best music”, or top 40 lowest-common-denominator pop songs), but there are programming changes that see some good local talent go out the window.

In case you haven’t heard the endless plugging on the air, the station is being hyped everywhere (and that will only increase now that it’s actually been launched). Program Director Bob Harris has started a blog to get everyone hyped up.

One of the first obvious questions is: Why change a brand everyone knows and replace it with the equivalent of a giant McDonald’s sign?

Harris explains on his blog:

Astral Media (our parent company) has the rights to use the Virgin Radio name in Canada.

The Virgin Brand brings some amazing power. It represents an edge of cool, it’s irreverent, it’s sexy, its fun, it’s world class and constantly surprising.

Are you sold yet? They bought a brand and it has a good marketing team behind it. How could they not abandon their brand for this?

MIX 96 is one of Astral’s Montreal English radio stations (CHOM and CJAD the other two) and as we roll the Virgin radio name out across the country to other stations, we need to be part of it here too. Just because head office made the decision don’t think for a second that we had to do it.

Translation: If I pretend to like this horrendous gutting of a local station’s identity, I might get a promotion some day from a corporate executive who wants yes men working for him. Or at least I won’t be fired.

Bob shot the Sherriff

Murray Sherriffs: Gone.

Murray Sherriffs: Gone.

The main face that has left the station is Murray Sherriffs, of Cat, Lisa and the Sherriff. He left last month in what is being described as “a programming decision.” Now it’s Cat, Lisa and classified third morning person to be announced in February.

Harris describes Sherriffs as a stand-up fellow despite the station’s apparent falling out with him, which also involved scrubbing any reference to him from their site and deleting all his past blog entries (you can get a taste in Google’s cache).

Sherriffs also took the high road when asked by Fagstein about his departure:

As you’ve heard, the radio station is being rebranded and sometimes hard business decisions have to be made.

But with the closing of this door comes other opportunities and I’ll be meeting this challenge as I have met others.

As I said on my MIX blog, the sentiments of one of my favorite songs by ”Chumbawamba”, ring especially true these days;

”I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing
When we’re winning”.

No word on Sherriffs’s next move, but we’ll let you know when it happens.

Seacrest in

Ryan Seacrest: Cheap filler

Ryan Seacrest: Cheap filler

The new faces coming? The biggest one appears to be Ryan Seacrest. Yes, that Ryan Seacrest. He does this radio show which will air during weekday evenings at 7 p.m. It replaces the RJ Daniels show, though Daniels will stay on to cut in with local information (like the Habs score and weather) and follow with his own show until midnight.

Harris for some reason needs to confess that Seacrest won’t do his show from Montreal (no, really?), and instead does it from L.A. where it’s beamed to hundreds of stations. Now 95.9FM in Montreal will be one of those faceless stations rebroadcasting Ryan Seacrest. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Feel for the Rhythm

The other programming change is the disappearance of Rhythms International. The Sunday night program, which had been on the station for more than 20 years, aired its final show Dec. 21, and is being replaced by UK Hit 40, another syndicated show replacing a local production. Like the ousting of Sherriffs, this is described as a “tough programming decision,” but essentially comes down to ratings.

Other programming, such as Nat Lauzon and the 80s/90s Nooner, will stay (though the latter will undergo a name change).

A sad day for local DJs

What particularly sucks about all this is that, unlike local television production, local radio production doesn’t require all that much work. A host and a producer. That’s pretty much it. When all you’re doing is playing music singles and doing small-talk between them, it should make sense to just have someone do it in-house.

But instead Astral is spending money to act as a rebroadcaster of foreign content. And not even good stuff. We’re talking about Ryan Seacrest here. The fact that Astral thinks Montrealers would prefer that (with the occasional local guy giving a 30-second weather report and local sports score) to spending an evening with a local DJ is sad.

Sadder still is that Astral might be right. Despite a few comments on my blog and a few emails to CJFM management, there isn’t much outrage over this. A Facebook group started up to fight it has less than 50 members. There’s been nothing in the other media about it.

It seems either Montrealers don’t know about what’s going on, or they don’t care.

Well, I do. Long live Mix 96.

UPDATE (Jan. 13): In case you missed the moment of launch, the station has posted a video of it on Facebook, which is apparently serving as their primary communications tool as their website is beyond simplistic.

Media coverage of the launch is light, but there are brief articles about it at Voir, Radio-Canada and the Journal de Montréal. Julien Brault also mentions it.

Infopresse has the two 15-second TV spots that are running on CTV.

UPDATE (Jan. 17): Clear Channel is planning massive job cuts in the U.S. in a move to nationalize radio production and gut local programming, according to the New York Post.