Who is Hot This Winter

Written by David Bray on 01 February 2001.

As Canada lies buried beneath the depths of winter, I'm sitting here embroiled in a discussion about who is hot. Or more specifically, which formats are hot and which are not. So its time to work up a little perspiration and churn out some analysis.

Below is a recap of 8 large markets, detailing the percentage share of hours tuned (A12+, M-Sun. 5a-1a) for each format in the Fall 2000 BBM. There is some subjectivity in determining whether a station should be categorized, for example, as Hot Adult Contemporary or Contemporary Hit Radio station.


So, which format is the taste du jour? Put down your instruments, there is no bandwagon to jump on. It's always fun to find a fad, but the truth is strict pragmatism is dictating most of the format shifts.

Contemporary Hit Radio's resurgence continues nationwide, filling what was a gaping void. Country in Canada is definitely affected by the absence of a Toronto license. It's hard to believe that a major format is conspicuously absent in Canada's two largest cities. Classic Rock, much like myself, is starting to grey around the temples. Still, the format has a few very strong proponents delivering substantial male audiences. Adult Contemporary continues to demonstrate that the middle of the road is a very popular place with listeners.

Speaking of pragmatism, the AM band is being dominated more and more by Talk of various sorts. The biggest news in recent months was CHUM's announcement of the Team Sports Radio Network.....a practical move if ever there was one. Their AM stations in Toronto, Ottawa (already a sports format), Vancouver, Halifax, Winnipeg, Peterborough, Kingston and Kitchener will soon flip to Sports. It became apparent that even their heritage oldies couldn't continue to deliver sufficient financial returns. With 1050CHUM in Toronto making the switch, it feels like the passing of an old friend. Never the less, combining resources to deliver solid nationwide programming makes sense in this era of consolidation. As the audience for most music formats on AM atrophies, stations need something practical to cling to while we all await the advent of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). (Sidenote: If you still don't believe that DAB is coming, give me a call. I know someone who would like to acquire your digital license.)

Another practical move came courtesy of Corus in Vancouver. Flipping CKLG to News with the moniker NW2 was simply brilliant. Given that they already own heritage news station CKNW with all of its new gathering resources, they have little to lose and everything to gain by consolidating and capitalizing on that fact. If this experiment works, look for someone else to duplicate the idea. In Ontario, Corus will be sharing News/Talk programming among their AM stations in Hamilton, London, Oshawa, Peterborough, Kingston and Guelph.

With the launch of Michael Caine's AM740 in Toronto, Adult Standards is taking a foothold as one of the last vestiges of music on AM across the country. It makes a good deal of sense. The 50+ audience grew up on AM and remains loyal to it. Moreover, this format delivers a truly unique programming alternative, filling a very real need for older listeners. Standard Radio already delivers this valuable alternative on some of its stations.

Lastly, in this age of niche marketing, we are starting to see stations which fill cultural voids. One example is the new FLOW93.5-FM in Toronto. Denham Jolly's persistence paid off and Toronto is being rewarded with a true alternative, R&B/world music.

With all of these changes, the above share chart will soon look a little different. And of course, the changes will likely spur a domino effect, with competitors shifting to address the new market complexions. In the final analysis, it's not a question of which format is hot. It's more a practical matter of what changes are broadcasters making in order to keep the heating bills paid.

Market CHR A/C Country News/Talk Sports Rock Classical Oldies/Adult Out of Market  
              /Jazz Standards    
Vancouver 11.6 14.5 5.6 27.0 0.0 17.5 6.3 7.7 9.8  
Toronto 9.1 27.4 0.0 19.6 2.5 15.4 8.2 2.8 15.0  
Calgary 15.5 11.5 15.8 16.4 0.0 22.6 3.5 6.7 8.0  
Edmonton 13.6 21.0 16.3 17.0 0.0 20.1 2.4 2.8 6.7  
Winnipeg 9.1 18.7 8.8 25.6 0.0 17.4 3.1 8.8 8.4  
Ottawa 8.2 30.0 7.6 26.1 1.9 15.3 5.4 2.2 3.4  
Montreal 28.5 25.8 0.0 23.5 0.0 4.0 9.3 1.3 7.6  
Halifax 0.0 30.3 20.8 18.9 0.0 16.4 4.6 7.3 1.8