Indie 88 radio station marches to an independent drummer

[Article by: Toronto Star - Friday July 26th. 2013]

There were 22 applicants for the licence. But nobody else pitched an indie station, one that promised to help Canadian artists who might otherwise be deprived of commercial airplay in the country’s largest market.

“New and emerging Canadian talent is the hot button issue in front of the CRTC,” says industry analyst David Bray, president of Bray and Partners Communications and a participant in the hearings last spring. “That is critically important to them.”

The Truth About Portable People Meters

Were you lying to me then or are you lying to me now?

That is the question I have had posed to me time and again when it comes to Diary vs. PPM methodology. It is a fair question given that the results from each format are markedly different.

I put the question to Jim McLeod, President of BBM, in my recent podcast interview.

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  • Extensive inside industry contracts are second to none. Total knowledge of all major markets ensures relevant plans.
  • Unsurpassed media contacts combined with strong strategic planning delivers optimal public relations management.
  • Cutting edge technology in terms of research and production are employed.
  • Studio facilities/engineers on site. Work is not shopped out, thus insuring better production costs and overall control.
  • Specializing in designing tactical executions.
  • Compensation is dependent upon performance! 

The trouble with 2000

It's the problem that has survivalists up in arms, while they get down to building bunkers.  They call it Y2K.  I call it The Trouble with 2000.  this month I'm taking a look at possible repercussions for broadcasters.

Born in Canada

Born in the U.S.A. Canada.
The rights, requirements and restrictions of Canadian radio broadcasters have long differed from those born in the land of Bruce Springsteen.  Similarly, the limited number of licenses granted as compared to the U.S. (where, I understand, sending in box tops can secure you a license) has resulted in the unique character of Canadian radio.  This article is intended as a brief update on the current state (province?) of affairs.

Making waves with the Summer Radio BBM

Oddly enough, things seem to be heating up as we come out of the summer and into the fall.  This is a brief look at who made waves in the summer radio BBM, as well as an overview of some significant changes on the radio industry horizon.

Upgrading radio production on a budget

Few would argue that the quality of creative has a significant impact on any radio campaign.  Production values and engineering ingenuity help to ensure that the advertisers (or station's) aural image breaks through.  Still, the production equipment is often the weak link in a radio station’s arsenal.  Operations with fine sales, programming and on-air talent are hesitant to upgrade out-of-date analogue equipment because the expenditure will bear no direct relationship to revenue or ratings.  The truth is that the sound and image of any station is highly dependent upon production.  This is a brief look at reasonable ways to upgrade your sound at a time when everyone’s budget is tight.

The Long Winter of Discontent

With the release of the fall radio BBM's, some broadcasters face a long winter waiting for a reprieve from a bad book.  In fact, the six month wait for the Spring BBM (to be released June 13) poses a real financial challenge for those who have to live with a "bad bounce".

This book is the final one that focuses solely on demographics, GRPs can R.I.P.

Spring 1996 will mark the debut of single source product usage/lifestyle information.  When cross referenced with demographic information this should usher in a new era of opportunities for niche oriented stations.




Canada's Gone Country

When perusing recent radio programming and audience trends one might say that, in the words of Alan Jackson, Canada's gone country.  At the very least, Canada has made some significant overtures in the direction of new country.

In the recent Fall 1995 BBM, the country format saw audience gains in Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, St. John's, Peterborough, et al.  The format has traditionally inspired rabid loyalty and excellent hours tuned, but used to fare less well in terms of overall cume.  Full coverage was its forte, with central area numbers in some instances lagging behind.  Aspects of this pattern are starting to change.

Radio revs up for the Internet

While radio certainly has a venerable heritage and currently maintains a position as the medium for those on the move, a new breed of broadcaster is starting to rev up for the information highway.  A variety of concepts are merging at ever increasing speeds.  If you are not faint of heart, stick your neck out and you'll find that we are approaching something very exciting.  The two dominant topics currently prompting discussion are digital radio and use of the Internet.  Exploration indicates how closely related these two matters are.

It is essential that broadcasters and advertisers unite in order to facilitate the implementation of new technologies.  Some cynics say that they've heard it all before -- a reference to the lobbying fiasco of AM stereo.  I prefer to think that we've learned our lesson -- consensus and cooperation will ultimately benefit us all.

Radio's response to the music industry's "content" attack

Executives from a coalition of publishing and recording associations have recently charged that broadcasters have been less than supportive of Canadian talent in Canada.  Let's take a look at radio's response.

Making sense of radio research

The dawn of a new era in radio research is upon us.  A variety of sweeping changes promise to revitalize the radio industry and open up opportunities for progressive, proactive buyers and sellers.  The number and complexity of new initiatives seem to warrant examination and clarification.  After all, in order to help radio make money , the research must first make sense.

The incorporation of single source product usage/lifestyle questions into BBM diaries (to be unveiled in the June release of the Spring 1996 survey) is, by far, the most significant development in years.  Timeliness, consistency and reliable trending will be established by having the questions appear in every survey in all markets.  (Especially noteworthy is the fact that this comes at no extra cost to member stations.)  Shedding light on the complexion of radio's targeted audience will certainly allow for more proficient selling and buying, not to mention and overall increase in revenue for the medium.  Now, reach/frequency runs against the real target group (cross referencing product usage with demographic information) will be a possibility.  Clients are willing to pay if you can demonstrate what the product (radio) is worth.


Who do we blame?

Inevitably with the release of each new radio ratings book, the issue of accountability arises.  It is a dangerous temptation to attempt a trend correction by lynching the morning show, ousting a programme director or toasting the sales manager.

Far too often, a discussion of accountability turns into a reactive assessment of who is to blame.  More than ever, it is important that members of the radio industry in Canada use the exemplary tools now at their disposal to proactively promote the targeting ability of the medium.  Radio has proven that it can deliver results.  It's time to stand up and be counted.  Clients need to be shown that raido will enthusiastically shoulder its share of marketing challenges.

A Disturbing Heritage.

More questions than answers on why CBC really needs another Toronto FM Licence.

The recent action taken by the Department of Canadian Heritage (intervening on behalf of the CBC) threatened to abort the Toronto and Montreal FM licence application processes.  This represents one of the more significant precedents in the history of Canadian Broadcasting.  Among other things, it could have rendered the primary licensing authority, the CRTC, virtually impotent.  Now is the time to examine the facts surrounding this important issue.

Building a Team

Without question, the cornerstones of most successful broadcast enterprises are the cooperative attitudes and approaches used when building and managing cohesive teams.  Though the premise may seem terribly simple, putting it into practice is anything but.

The Buzz: Caused by a New Toronto Frequency

Listen.  You can hear a buzz in the air.  It's being caused by a new Toronto FM frequency (99.1) about to be allocated by the CRTC.  this is the last possible site on the dial and a small group of applicants are hotly pursuing it.  all of the major broadcast conglomerates currently have a Toronto license, effectively prohibiting them from joining the fray.  The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the contest and the issues being discussed.  I should mention that I have been working with one of the applicants, All Toronto.  Still the purpose of this piece is not to rank the submissions or to suggest which one is the most deserving.

The applicants break out into two basic categories.  About half focus on improving the overage area and/or signal strength of existing stations, while the remainder are putting forward new formats for which they see a programming hole in the market.  Cultural contributions and niche programming for minorities play a significant role in the arguments put forward by the latter group.

Creating Sounds that Sell

In their quest to increase radio revenues, broadcasters have traditionally sold radio short in one particular area; creative.  Few would argue that the quality of creative has a significant impact on any radio campaign.  Production values and engineering ingenuity help to ensure that the advertisers (or station's) aural image breaks through.  Why then has ad creative traditionally been positioned as being a no charge throw in to retail advertisers.


The squares have come full circle.

The lifting of the FM hits restriction will have a huge impact on programmers, advertisers and listeners.

It seems that the squares have come full circle.  After years of almost impenetrable programming regulations that amounted to advanced algebra, the usually stodgy CRTC has turned FM radio back into a much less regulated forum.  Up until now, FM stations were constrained and limited to 49% hits.  Effectively, and somewhat perversely, this meant that listeners were prevented from hearing some of their favorite songs... or at least hearing them as much as they would like. 


CHUM in the Beginning

In the beginning, there was CHUM.  For young people growing up in Toronto during the 50's, 60's and 70's, 1050 CHUM was something of a religion.  One that defined pop music and pop culture.  For many of us there is a certain reverence for the songs that are interwoven with memories of the era.  There was an energy, innocence and enthusiasm that has given way to more cynical times.  As Bob Seger once said, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."  On a tough day, it's easy to feel like that.

In 1957 Allan Waters launched hit radio in Canada with the debut of CHUM.  It is difficult to estimate the full impact of the station's influence in the years that followed.  For Canadian artists, making the hallowed FHUM Chart meant that their careers were taking off.  Listeners enthusiastically picked up their free copies of the chart at record stores.  Even after all these years, those same charts are prized collector's items; icons that map out the memories of our youth.  for fun, check out the charts on CHUM's searchable web site (www.1050chum.com.)

The politics of Radio Sales

The polities of national versus local concerns have long proved to be divisive.  Little wonder that in the world of radio sales this rift continues to separate less successful from more profitable operations.

It is generally held that radio sales are approximately75-80 per cent local and 20-25 per cent national.  the difficulty arises when we try to define what constitutes a national account.  Moreover, who gets the right to service that account, a local sales executive or a national rep shop?  Throw in the topic of commission and this discussion gets ugly.  The losers are inevitably the client (who is caught in the middle), the station and the medium as a whole with its image further tarnished.  The position that defines any business with a storefront as a local account has long ago lost any credence.  Infighting is rampant.  At a time when the medium sorely needs and deserves proactive selling, the battle isn't even making it out the front door.

Who's worth listening to at the hearings?

There are a variety of voices vying for attention at the latest CRTC radio hearings.  The question is who's worth listening to?  Let's try to sift through the issues the key players and the possible implications of change.  The primary items for consideration are Cancon regulations and duopolies.  Let's start with the latter.

A review of broadcast ownership policies is being prompted in the U.S. experience with duopolies.  Currently in Canada, one corporation is limited to ownership of a maximum of one AM and one FM station (of the same language) in each market.  The exception is Windsor where the CHUM group was permitted to acquire all four stations (2 AM and 2 FM) in order to survive against Detroit competition.  Shaw has an ownership position in two Toronto area FM stations, CFNY-FM and FM108, giving them a strangle-hold on younger listeners.  Technically FM108 is in Burlington.  Secondly, the ownership is held by, among others, Shaw principals such as Terry Strain and Hal Blackadar as opposed to all being held by Shaw itself.

The only real option currently available to Canadian broadcasters in need of a more financially efficient management approach is a LMA (local management agreement).  Such arrangements have been made in, for example, Sudbury, Winnipeg, North Bay and Saskatoon.  there, some management and sales functions of different stations were combined with certain conditions.  Each licensee retains ownership of their station assets and maintains a separate programming, news, and senior management staff.



How much is it worth?

In this era of added value, we're constantly being asked "how much is it worth to you?"  The ‘It’ in question could be a promo / liner, a new morning host, or a divorce (seemingly quite a popular item with overworked radio execs).

This month I did a bit of shopping around in an attempt to analyze value systems in the world of radio.

Why has payola never been a factor in Canada as compared to the U.S.A.?  Why don't we have hordes of independent promo people waving wads of cash in return for a playlist add?  I would like to think it is because of our moral superiority.  The truth may be that it doesn’t' pay enough.  It isn't worth it for those who are criminally inclined.  As one major market programme director said to me, "Canada isn't big enough.  I was offered 50 bucks once".

Of course when you wade into the grey area of contra, the stories are legend.  Sadly, Revenue Canada doesn't appreciate poetic license when it comes to bookkeeping practices.

Speaking of building and renovations, there is another area that doesn't quite stand up to closer inspection - "paper hanging."  I've been told many times that "that doesn’t' take place here anymore".  How is it then that happy to help out salespeople at certain sold out stations will give desperate buyers perfectly timed phone calls.  "We've just had a cancellation."  You can hear the implication oozing toward you... how much is it worth to you?
 

The new complexion of marketing

As the recently released census figures indicate, the face of Canada's population is rapidly changing.  As we approach the millennium, much of the business community is ill prepared to address the new complexion of marketing opportunities.  Those that don't face up to the new reality will be quickly left behind.  The truth is, niche or multicultural marketing can translate into increased profits.

Many of us come from liberal arts backgrounds where political correctness has us constantly stutter stepping to keep from putting the proverbial foot in the mouth.  God forbid we mention anyone's religion, cultural heritage, sex or sexual preference, lest we be coloured prejudiced.  It was assumed (if all went well) that society would become one huge happy homogeneous melting pot.  Then something happened to muddy the picture's reality.

It has become impossible to ignore the fact that cultural background significantly affects our attitudes, not to mention our lifestyles and purchasing patterns.




Dear Diary...

Dear Diary: 

We've been keeping you for quite some time now but we've become a little concerned that some of the stories you've been telling us are less than accurate.

In the world of radio measurement in Canada, we've been forced to court the BBM diary since radio revenues are married to its figures.  You can dally with Angus Reid, Birth or other suitors, but you must eventually come back to BBM.

The problem is, of course, that the diary methodology brings with it baggage that can weigh down the results.  In this issue I want to take a look at the problems facing the diary and the promising alternatives which are looming on the horizon.

Every methodology has its own set of built in biases.  The diary consistently under reports Men 18-24, much to the chagrin of rock and CHR stations.  The poor response rates for that demo indicate an entrenched reluctance among young men to "put it in writing".

CRTC passes new bill but who's going to pay?

Even in this digital age, the tables keep turning.  For the record (or at least the Cancon CD), the CRTC has once again changed the playing surface.  After careful consideration and a substantial amount of lobbying, our friends in Ottawa have passed two new rulings which will dramatically affect the broadcast community.  The complex question that must once again be asked after examining the new bill is who is going to pay?  Let me get out my looking glass.




Turkeys Don't Fly

Good ones soar but turkeys don't fly.  That was the hard lesson learned by Les Nessman of WKRP in Cincinnati concerning radio promotions.  The medium of choice when it comes to great promotions has historically been radio.  I thought I'd take a brief look at some past campaigns as well as ways in which to better target an initiative.

I have always marveled at some on-air announcers facility with numbers.

Imagine my astonishment as I sat in the booth witnessing the jock answer calls with..  You’re the 239th caller... you're the 537th caller... congratulations you're the 1007th caller!  Who needs a computer for computations?  This is RADIO.

Path open for Standard

The CRTC ruling allowing duopolies effectively clears the way for radio in major markets across Canada to be controlled by a few significant groups.  One of the most influential of these is Standard Radio Inc.  To understand its history, you have to take a closer look at who is holding the reins.

President Gary Slaight is one of the driving forces behind the policies that characterize Standard.  His father, Allan Slaight, purchased the group in 1985 and son, Gary, joined him in 1987.  In recent years, Gary has overseen the day to day dealing of the firm's radio division.

while some groups become bogged down by red tape, requiring a committee to confirm the time of day, that isn't true at Standard.  the always -decisive Slaights hold the reins.  This approach affords a variety of benefits.  When it comes to acquisitions, they can proceed aggressively without having to answer to shareholders.  Gary has been working to build a strong network of rock stations in major markets across Canada.  One of the more recent purchases was that of Z95.3/CISL in Vancouver for a rumored purchase price of approximately $18 million.  That turned out to be a steal as Z95.3 with its 12+ tuning share of 13.1 per cent is a market leader.  Add to that rockers CJAY92 in Calgary, the Bear in Edmonton, the Bear in Ottawa, MIX 96 in Montreal and flagship MIX 99.9 in Toronto and you have a network to be reckoned with.  With the exception of their recent sale of St. Catharine's HTZ-FM to the O'Briens for "too much to turn down," Standard seems to be assuming an acquisitive posture.  Gary Slaight confirmed that HTZ-FM wasn't fitting into their long-term major market strategy and would be better off in the hands of a local broadcaster.

This chart covering Standar's major market stations as of the Summer '98 BBM demonstrates the firm's overall strength.

Whereas other conglomerates such as WIC have tended to allow each market operation to operate more or less independently, Standard has continued to centralize many functions.  By cutting through much of the red tape, Slaight has managed to strictly control operating costs and deliver impressive profit margins.

Slaight brought in well-known programmer Jim Johnston (J.J.) as director of programming for the group.  In his career J.J. has posted some great numbers for a variety of rock stations, most recently the FOX, and then CFMI-FM in Vancouver.  His influence is immediately apparent, particularly in the strides made by Toronto's MIX 99.9.  One of his many innovations was the insertion of multilingual breakers/liners.  This kind of progressive thinking is critical in a market that has been called the "most culturally diverse in the world".  Johnson works on a weekly basis with the great lineup of programmers in the other markets to share successes, promotion ideas, and ensure continuity throughout the group.  One persistent rumour had Standard brining hot talker Howard Stern into Ottawa as well as other markets.  Slaight now offers assurances that this won't happen, given the costs, the controversy, and the declining ratings for Stern.

On the sales front, Bill Hertz assumes the role of national director of sales, coordinating the efforts of GSM's across the country.  Except for one brief dalliance with the CHUM group, Hertz has been a long time employee of Standard.  Hertz proudly points to the fact that Standard aggressively seeks to drive the overall cost per points in their markets.  At the same time, he stressed the importance of "client service" and "new ideas" for clients.  Along those lines, Standard's centralized approach has allowed them to develop national promotions and features for clients with all their FM stations participating.

In this era of acquisitions, amalgamations, and duopolies, there is one certainty concerning Standard Radio.  With the Slaights holding the reins, it's going to be an exciting ride.


Op-ed: CRTC surprises by not shaking up radio rules

Last Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced the results of its commercial radio policy review. The process began with four intense days of hearings held this past May in Gatineau, Quebec. Since then, members of the broadcast, music and advertising industries have been anxiously waiting for the word to come down. The surprising payoff? The regulations were not altered.

One portion of the decision that did not attract much attention, but perhaps should have, was L-band licensees - which "will be free to develop whatever broadcast services they believe will be of the greatest interest to the listening public." Remember that DAB stagnated largely because stations were limited to replication of existing AM/FM programming, with the exception of 14 hours per week. Consumers weren't willing to buy new receivers unless they could get alternative programming. Bottom Line: Look for innovative, niche and multicultural broadcasters to exploit this in a big way.

Let's take a look at the highlights, and most importantly, the ramifications of the decision. The CRTC made mention of the stiff competition the medium faces from new regulated and unregulated technologies for the distribution of music (MP3 players, iPods, Internet radio, podcasting, downloading, satellite radio and cellphone radio). "The key challenge facing the radio industry is to remain relevant" in the face of such new technologies, said CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen.

Still, little in the review beyond new approaches to Canadian content development directly addresses these issues. While it was widely expected that a bonus or quota system for new and emerging artists would be introduced, the minimum level of Cancon remains at 35% without further restrictions. Upping it to 40% was considered, but rejected due to the competitive climate in which radio finds itself.

Regulations were changed for classical (raised to 25% from 10%) and jazz and blues (up to 20% from 10%), but this will have an effect on relatively few stations. Bottom line: The CRTC essentially deferred to broadcasters by not imposing more taxing regulations while they are gearing up for the fight with outside influences.

Some important changes were made in the approach to Canadian content development (CCD) contributions. The basic contribution system would be based on a radio station's revenues, as opposed to the size of the market in which it operates. The CAB issued a release saying that "the increased burden that will result from tying these initiatives to broadcasters' revenues is of some concern." Bottom line: This is the way it always should have been - pay on the ability to do so. Smaller niche stations will be the grateful winners in this scenario.

Bottom line: I have a sense that the real review of radio will be conducted by the listeners who are being confronted with all of these choices. Stay tuned.

Radio Applications Making Waves in Canada

Radio in Canada is about to make waves unlike any we have heard before. In fact, I would go so far as to call them tidal waves of change. As the CRTC convenes their overall review of radio in an attempt to map out the road for the future, digital radio in various incarnations is the central topic. A series of new applications (pun intended) for the medium are being explored. At the same time that the industry is working to determine the role that DAB will play in the years to come, the concept of subscription radio has been added to the mix. On top of all of this, the way radio tuning will be surveyed in the future is under examination by BBM. For radio fans, this is a sonic feast.

While DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) was initially contemplated as a replacement technology for AM/FM, its future clearly appears to rely on a revision of CRTC regulations to allow for introduction of DAB exclusive stations. In addition, a great deal of work is also currently being done on the development of third party datacasting applications which will generate revenue for the broadcasters investing in DAB.

Over 60 DAB versions of AM/FM stations are currently on air in Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, Montreal, and Ottawa. Seven

Halifax DAB signals are also currently being field-tested. Applications have been made by the stations in Victoria. Experience has taught us that being a high tech replacement technology is good, but not enough. Soaring DAB receiver sales in the U.K. (over 400,000 since June of last year) has demonstrated the importance of DAB exclusive stations in addition to the greatly improved fidelity and data display features. The first multilingual DAB only license has been granted and a number of other applications are pending. Radio Canada/CBC has introduced its first experimental DAB station with their news/weather/traffic offering in Montreal. Look for some very progressive thinking and a number of exciting announcements from them in the near future.

And speaking of the future……if the CRTC buys into the concept of subscription radio, some very interesting alternatives for digital radio may be in store. The CRTC hearing on subscription radio is expected to be held by August or September. Heads were turned recently when three applications were submitted by the filing date. These include the XM/Canadian Satellite Radio and Sirius/CBC/Standard satellite proposals along with the CHUM Ltd. terrestrial/DAB solution. It had been widely expected to be a two way race focusing on the discussion of satellite. But, CHUM took the opportunity to look at an alternative approach utilizing the terrestrial DAB infrastructure, some of which is already in place. 

The initial consideration of subscription radio was triggered by the application made by Canadian Satellite Radio (CSR), a partnership with John Bitove Jr. and XM Satellite Radio based in Washington, D.C. CSR is promising 100 channels of nationwide music and information which will serve both urban and rural areas. The XM service in the U.S. has experienced substantial growth and currently boasts 1.5 million+ subscribers. An agreement to include XM receivers in GM vehicles has been a very positive force, one that is expected to be repeated in Canada. In order to compliment the existing channels, CSR is committed to building studios in both Toronto and Montreal. Moreover, Stewart Lyons of CSR proudly points to the Canadian content XM will be delivering not only to Canadians, but to listeners south of the border. Vice President of Programming, Bob Mackowycz emphasizes the fact that XM will give independent artists a voice in a way that mainstream radio can’t. CSR doesn’t see itself as being in competition with conventional radio, but rather as a compliment to it. One that offers cutting edge niche programming that mass appeal stations can’t afford to deliver. 

The CHUM subscription radio application involves a progressive rollout of urban centres that, by the end of the first term of license, will deliver 100+ commercial free DAB stations in a variety of formats with the much-touted DAB benefits… reliable reception, crystal clear sound, and a data display for song credits, weather, traffic, etc. Most importantly, the CHUM application stresses the fact they will fulfill or exceed the 35% CANCON requirements normally demanded by the CRTC. CHUM is rumoured to be speaking with other broadcasters and potential partners that could provide experience and expertise in subscription media services and wireless communications. It is presumed that the CHUM initiative would feature subsidized digital receivers which would offer both traditional free access for conventional DAB stations as well as their slate of conditional access stations for a $10 monthly subscription fee. 

While we don’t yet have all of the details on the Sirius satellite application (with CBC and Standard as partners), expect a formidable presentation. The value of the CBC to Canadians is highly regarded by Heritage Canada and the CRTC. The CBC sided with Sirius, in part, due to their preference for its satellite configuration from a technical perspective. It is also worth noting that the Sirius application makes mention of seeking the development of combined satellite/DAB receivers. If this becomes technically possible, it would provide an ideal solution for the CBC which is heavily committed to DAB in urban areas. The satellite transmission would allow them to adequately cover all outlying areas. 

Lastly, a BBM committee has been convened to review survey timing and methodology in Canada. The implications of changes in this area are quite far reaching for the industry. I hope to report on some exciting developments on this in the near future.

Listeners have been demanding change and they are, in all likelihood, about to get it. More varied programming options, improved fidelity, display features, and interactivity are just some the features that are in store. From a receiver standpoint, I have seen and heard some of the bells and whistles on the new models being developed for Canada and they are addictive. For example, a new pause and rewind feature (with a 10 minute buffer) allows you to scroll back and hear the traffic report you missed or listen to that last song over again. Things just keep getting better.

Standing still is simply not an option for a medium that prides itself as being the best option for those on the move. It would appear that a combination of DAB exclusive stations and subscription radio will offer valuable niche programming options which enhance the listeners experience without diminishing the vital day to day contribution of local broadcasters. Add to that exciting new digital receivers and a wealth of listener survey data. I think I hear the future….stay tuned.

(Published in "Broadcaster Magazine")


Broadcasters Receive CRTC Approvals and Prepare To Launch DAB In Ottawa

Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. ( DRRI), today announced that 15 Ottawa area digital license applications have been approved the CRTC. This completes the groundwork for the launch of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the nation’s capital, expected in early in 2003. All of the major broadcasters currently active in the market received approvals. The list of successful applicants includes Astral Radio Inc., CBC/Radio Canada, CHUM Ltd., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc.

Duff Roman, President of DRRI declared that "I’m pleased to see the ever-increasing support for DAB in Canada. This enthusiasm has helped to position our nation as a world leader in the development of digital radio. It is only fitting that listeners in the nation’s capital be treated to the power of DAB - superb digital audio with the addition of value-added datacasting services."

The 15 new licensees join the 57 DAB stations which have made service available to 10 million people in Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, and Montreal. Halifax is expected to join the list by early 2003. A comprehensive engineering study was recently completed which will plan for new digital audio broadcasting (DAB) stations to serve the major population corridors in Canada. Covered by the new services will be all markets between Toronto - Windsor, Toronto - Ottawa, Toronto - Montreal, Montreal - Quebec City, Calgary - Edmonton, and Vancouver - Greater Fraser Valley. The planned expansion will add a series of markets including Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Cambridge, Guelph, Cornwall, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Quebec City, Trois Rivieres and Chilliwack.

Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. ( DRRI), is a non-profit joint initiative of major private broadcasters (Astral Radio Inc., CHUM Ltd., Corus Entertainment Inc., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc.), a number of smaller private broadcasters, and public broadcasters (CBC, Radio Canada) with the support of the Canadian government. DRRI’s mandate is the introduction of digital audio broadcasting services across Canada. DAB is the replacement technology for current AM and FM analogue transmission.

Buying Space

They used to call it buying space. Not so long along ago, media buying was a relatively simple process. Success in media sales was dependent more on service than on savvy analysis. But much like most everything else in life, progress brought complexity. Every answer brings a new set of questions. So here advertisers sit in an era of increasing media fragmentation trying to ascertain what they should buy and in what combination. On the flip side of the coin, broadcasters and publishers are contemplating what properties they should buy in order to maintain control of the marketplace. Expansion brings us scores of new specialty TV channels catering to almost every whim, hobby, fantasy or fetish. In this turbulent atmosphere, radio has an opportunity that should not be overlooked.

Traditionally speaking, television has always been a mass medium while radio was somewhat more targeted with formats catering to specific niches. Suddenly, television is leapfrogging radio in its attempt to superserve narrowly defined niches. All History, All Golf, All Women’s Sports, All Weather, All Cartoons, etc. I’m waiting with anticipation for the new “All Female Left-handed Golfer’s Channel” beaming in 24 hours a day. Although they could run out of “A” list programming by 3am. But pity the poor buyer. Long gone are the days of programmes such as the finale of MASH which delivered astronomical audience shares and spectacular reach.

In the midst of these developments, the overall number of radio stations has remained fairly consistent. Credit the CRTC with this much…..it has not allowed Canadian markets to be flooded with unprofitable radio stations like we have seen in some U.S. cities.  While television audiences are being spread across a burgeoning menu of choices, the top radio stations continue to deliver the kind of audiences that advertisers have come to expect.

In Canada, radio has, by standing pat while the number of television stations explodes, improved its competitive position. Radio audience measurement is more detailed than ever with the availability of BBM’s single source demographic/product usage diary data and the incomparable RTS study. These afford the medium precise niche targeting without audience dilution.

While the number of radio stations may not have markedly increased, the revised ownership regulations issued by the CRTC have had a dramatic impact. Broadcast groups are now afforded the opportunity for multiple ownership in a market (e.g. a group can own two AM and two FM stations in a major market). This has resulted in expansion for certain major broadcast groups and the demise of others. With so much consolidation, the atmosphere is very difficult for independent broadcasters.

One development saw Astral Media purchase 19 radio stations in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia from Telemedia. Adding CITE-FM to their CKMF-FM powerhouse gives Astral a formidable foothold in the Francophone Montreal market.

In the Anglophone Montreal market, Standard Radio picked up CHOM-FM which will make a nice addition to their current holdings, CJAD and MIX96.

In another stunning development, Standard Radio announced the acquisition of Telemedia stations in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. plus Craig stations in Manitoba and Alberta. Adding EZRock to MIX99.9 and CFRB in Toronto gives the group a very well rounded presence in Canada’s largest market. In subsequent transactions the northern Ontario properties were then sold to Rogers while other western properties were sold to Newcap.

With the exit of Telemedia from radio, the list of major ownership groups is becoming very thin. We have Corus, Astral, CHUM, Standard, Rogers and the CBC. The remaining groups, while providing essential and vibrant voices, are somewhat smaller. The question remains as to what will be the implications of these changes.

Certainly, one of the most interesting aspects of multiple station ownership in individual markets is better station positioning. Owners can zero in on a very specific niche which is complimentary to those targeted by their other stations. The listener/advertiser benefits in that there tends to be less format duplication. For example, fewer different owners slugging it out in the Female 25-54 Adult Contemporary arena. By dominating a distinct niche, owners afford themselves definite marketing advantages, not the least of which is setting the market cost per point for their given target. Advertisers can take advantage of group sales which boast domination of a targeted demo. For example, witness Corus Radio properties in Toronto. With Q107’s classic rock, Mojo Talk Radio for Guys (AM640) and The Edge’s (CFNY-FM) new music (not to mention Energy95.3) a group buy delivers excellent coverage of young males and certain lifestyle groups (e.g. beer drinkers).

Multiple ownership allows broadcasters to spread operational costs (traffic, accounting, production, rent, etc.) over more properties, thus making the overall enterprise more efficient. This, in turn, results in more flexibility with ad rates. Broadcasters have been pruning staff on an ongoing basis to make sure their stations both maintain profit margins while remaining cost competitive with others stations and media.

Another implication of broad ownership is the resurgence of syndication, albeit in a very different form. In the days of “mosaics” and various other CRTC programming regulations, a number of independent syndicators prospered. With the easing of the restrictions, avenues for this sort of programming largely dried up. On the other hand, syndication firms such as Sound Source (owned by Standard) can prove to be a valuable resource for their parent firms.  They produce cost effective programming with a base of stations from their parent network already in place. The idea of a “Superstation” sharing programming is another popular experiment. Here, a format (e.g.EZRock) is developed by the flagship station in a group. From there the format and certain programming elements are rolled out to other members in the broadcast group. This allows the advertiser to focus on certain targeted features and maintain a consistency from market to market.

One of the most ambitious examples of the brave new world of syndication or networking has been CHUM’s creation of the “Team”,  Canada’s first Sports Talk Network. They boast affiliates in 9 key centres….Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Kingston, Kitchener, Peterborough, Winnipeg and Halifax. Costs are applied over a broad market list, affording the sort of programming which might normally be cost prohibitive for an individual market. Ads can be purchased on both a local and national basis. Sadly, the network has not yet been able to generate sufficient audience or revenue to make it a success. CHUM has recently announced a restructuring with somewhat less centralization and more emphasis on local content.

So, while buying space in radio may be somewhat more complex than in days gone by, the combination of superior audience data, targeted group buying opportunities, exciting programming experiments and consistently substantial audiences is making the experience more rewarding than ever.

(Published in "Marketing Magazine")



The Genesis of Jack (and the Evolution of Rogers Flagship Stations)

Shockwaves were felt throughout the land. A prophet came down from the mountain clutching programming commandments written in stone (which looked peculiarly like BBM diaries). After a tasteful pause for a commercial message, he issued a proclamation from the radio gods. “Thou Shalt Have A New Format and its name shall be *****". It seems that while everyone was in agreement on the nature of this new sound, the people at CHUM thought he said “BOB". After some brief reflection, the people at Rogers were pretty sure he said "JACK". Lastly, the people at Corus are certain he said "Dave". Thus was born the divisions among believers in the new format sweeping the country.

While the above may be an overstatement of how earthshaking the new programming trend is, this unconventional approach is certainly making its presence felt across Canada. And it would appear listeners are taking notice and tuning in. At the same time, a series of other formatic shifts are taking place, changing the ever evolving sonic landscape. As players carve out their own niches, everyone is hoping for a bigger piece of the pie.

The godfather of JACK is Sandy Sanderson, Executive Vice President of Programming for Rogers nationally. A little over 10 months ago, he and his team decided to revive their AC franchise in Vancouver with a dramatic change in sound. KISS-FM was caught up in a perennial battle with soft rocker 103.5QM-FM and wasn't gaining any ground with the core female 25-54 demo. After considering various options, the first JACK was born on December 27, 2002. The playlist, which is three times normal size, boasts an eclectic mix of pop from the 80's, 90's and beyond. The station proudly rejects listener requests and concentrates on "playing what we want". Irreverent splitters feature such things as the station filing listener requests with the sound of a toilet flush. Results were immediate and dramatic with the station jumping from 4.3% share of hours tuned (A12+) in Fall '02 to a 10.7% share in Spring '03 and a 12.7% in Summer ‘03. The female/male split is approx. 51%/49% and the age emphasis is on the lucrative 25-54 demo.



  % Share of Hours Tuned
  (Mon.-Sun, 5a-1a)
  Source: BBM Summer 2003
  A12+ A12+ A12+ W25-54 W25-54 W25-54 M25-54 M25-54 M25-54
  Sum. '03 Spr. '03 Fall '02 Sum. '03 Spr. '03 Fall '02 Sum. '03 Spr. '03 Fall '02
Toronto                  
CISS-FM 3.5 3.6 4.9 5.7 2.9 3.8 4.6 1.6 3.2
(JACKFM)                  
Vancouver                  
CKLG-FM 12.7 10.7 4.3 20.5 17.4 7 19.7 16.7 4.6
(JACKFM)                  
Calgary                  
CKIS-FM 19 3.5 4.8 24.5 3.2 3.3 27.1 2.6 1.6
(JACKFM)                  
Winnipeg                  
CFWM-FM 9.8 10.5 11.2 15.8 17.6 21.1 13.2 14.6 14.8
(BOBFM)                  
Ottawa                  
CKKL-FM 10.9 7.6 10.1 17.6 11.7 10.9 15.4 6.7 7.5
(BOBFM)                  



Promos proclaim "If you haven't heard about the new station in town, you don't know Jack". The promotional tone for Jack has been tastefully irreverent and consistently playful. Campaign details include prizes of Cracker Jack, life sized posters of a Jack Ass, Jack-in –the-Box TV creative and a series of in your face splitters. It seems some listeners are tired of being told how valuable their requests are and embrace this brash approach. Maybe this explains why so many women say they like "bad boys".

But before there was Jack, there was Bob. The recent trend (I'm still waiting for Tom, Dick and Harry) began in March 2002 with a CHUM owned Winnipeg station (CFWMFM) that flipped to an "80's, 90's and whatever" format positioned with the moniker Bob (99.9 BOB-FM). The format was the brainchild of Howard Kroger (Programme and Operations Manager). He sought to develop a sound designed for 30 somethings. His goal was to forge a psychological affiliation with the group caught between the Generation X'ers and Baby Boomers, giving them the music and attitude associated with their not so distant youth. The results were immediate and impressive with the station leapfrogging past the competition. Executive V.P. CHUM Radio Limited, Paul Ski, proudly points out that "BOB in Winnipeg has been number one in reach and share of hours tuned for adults 25-54 since its launch. CHUM has, in turn, flipped their Ottawa station KOOL-FM from Contemporary Hit Radio to BOB. By the way, no one has yet come up with an appropriate category descriptor for this format (is it gold?, AC?, hits of yesterday and whatever?). BBM is currently grappling with this dilemma, so don't bother checking the front of your book for an answer. In a market already rocked by change including the launch of HOT89.9, BOB came through in a big way for the Summer BBM, delivering a 17.6% share of Females 25-54. While they dropped some teens and very young adults, they more than made up for it in the 25-54 money demos. In recent months, CHUM has also rolled out the successful experiment to include their stations in London and Brockville.

The Rogers team adopted the new concept, renamed their newborn Jack, and encouraged even more irreverence. In fact Rogers, was so pleased, they ultimately repeated the experiment in Calgary, Toronto and most recently, Orillia. Not to be left behind, Corus has revamped their station in Cambridge and dubbed their incarnation DAVE.

The June 4 launch of Jack-FM in Toronto took place ahead of schedule. After hearing talk of a competitor adopting the format, V.P. of Rogers Toronto Radio Operations Chuck McCoy turned CHR station KISS92.5 around completely in a dizzying 27 hours. During the summer survey period, the station was without DJ's, leaning on a distinctive series of splitters to maintain the flow and deliver the image. Two notable exceptions involved having Dan Ackroyd and Meatloaf each serve as guest hosts for an afternoon. As Oct. 1 Rob Christie (last with JACK-FM in Vancouver) signed on as host of the breakfast show.

As a reward for his valuable contribution in Vancouver, P.D. of the original incarnation of Jack, Pat Cardinal, was brought in Sept. 8 to head up the Toronto operation as G.M. and P.D. Cardinal is remembered in T.O. as the man who brought Howard Stern to Q107. He likens Jack to Seven-Up, and its breakthrough campaign as the UnCola. He proudly points to Jack-FM as the unradio station with a format that breaks all of the programming rules and is rewarded with a loyal audience looking for a fresh approach.

Jack-FM's sales team, headed up by Lannie Atkins, have crunched thee numbers and are promising to steal 20-25% of the A25-54 ratings from each of CHUM-FM, MIX99.9, Q107, EZRock 97.3 and the Edge 102.1. While that wasn't the case as of the Summer BBM, the jury is still out awaiting the Fall numbers.

It is ironic (although I'll have to check with Alanis Morrissette) that one of the casualties of this new sound is new music. Both in Ottawa and Toronto, CHR/Top 40 stations have been flipped. The important thing to note is that well under 1% of ad buys across Canada are directed at teens. Conversely Adults 25-54 see the vast majority of ad revenues. Both KOOL-FM and KISS92.5 were doing solid jobs in their markets, but with increased competition for a niche that wasn't tremendously lucrative to begin with, they had little choice but to seek greener (i.e.$$$) pastures.

As is always the case, format shifts have a domino effect in a market as surrounding stations adjust their sound to protect their audience shares. This game has become all the more strategic with expanded corporate ownership of up to 4 stations (and more with spill stations) per market.

Rogers strategy with their flagship franchise in the Toronto market has been especially intriguing. The acquisition of FAN590 has given them a solid base of talk on AM with two distinctive male-skewed niches. 680News is both unique and consistent with an expanding cume and a loyal audience that checks in "3, 4, or 5 times a day". From a sales perspective, the station positions itself extremely well with business/financial community. On FAN590, P.D. Nelson Millman has done a masterful job of holding off the Team 1050 challenge and retaining a very loyal audience. Again, this distinctive niche allows for a very targeted sales approach which reaches far beyond boxcar numbers.

On the FM side, JACK-FM strives for a fairly even female/male split. CHFI-FM, the station which has frequently boasted the largest cume of any station in the country, is content with a female skew and a domination of office tuning. Still, all was not well in Paradise. With audience figures declining and the younger end of the demo slipping away, there was a need for some revitalizing. This new energy has come in the form of Julie Adam, recently named General Manager and Programme Director of CHFI-FM. Most recently Julie served as P.D. of KISS92.5 before the flip from its CHR format to JACK. Her formidable resume includes a successful history with Rawlco, with stints at Z99 in Regina and Energy 1200 in Ottawa. Her first order of business was to revamp the morning show, bringing in Mad Dog and Billie to replace Erin and Bob (who is now in the drive slot). Her goal was to develop a show that was both contemporary and "relevant" to current listeners. She continues to make programming tweaks with everything from the playlist to positioning statements and stylish splitters. Stay tuned to see how her programming savvy pays off.

The radio gods have spoken. All that remains for us to do is pick up the Fall BBM and find out who was listening.


Windows of Opportunity

Welcome to the new Hennessy & Bray Communications web site. With due deference to the technologically irrepressible Mr. Gates, it seems like the perfect time to examine the Windows of opportunity that the Internet is affording advertisers, broadcasters, and marketing people in Canada.

Fans of a science fiction future just have to look over their shoulders. It’s all around us. My four-year-old son is demonstrating proficiency with computer skills at an age when I was doing little more than drooling. As the new BBM RTS study points out, 1,834,688 people aged 12+ in Toronto actively search the web for information. Now think about the hundreds of millions who will be linking up around the world over the next few years. Check the stock market if you want to know where the excitement for investors is. Tell them you want to buy a radio license (please… no letters from the CRTC) and listen to the sound of a slamming door. Conversely, talk about your far-fetched web project and watch wads of cash waft in your direction. Take a look at the recent record trading of excellent stocks like bid.com or broadcast.com and it’s obvious which way the wind is blowing.

Consumer media has essentially undergone 3 major eras. The Industrial Revolution brought with it mass communication and the newspaper era. The 1920’s brought about the age of broadcast with all of its enticing immediacy. Increasing technological sophistication brought us video. We now sit on the cusp of the Internet era. Here, media connects with the consumer at his/her convenience. We still have newsrooms, mailrooms, offices, libraries, etc. The difference is that they exist in new forms suited to the whims and wants of consumers. In era of increasing fragmentation, the consumer won’t be willing to be told when to tune in. The broadcaster better have programming sitting at the ready for when the customer calls.

Advancements like streaming audio/video from RealAudio have made broadcasting to the world a reality. This new environment has a variety of benefits. No license required. No content regulations. No borders. No transmitters. Absolute audience tracking accuracy. The ability to supply extra information simultaneously. Weather, song lyrics, stock prices, an advertiser’s product information, you name it. And listen to this radio people…..you are playing on an even field with your television brethren.

Email is far more than a priority post for letters home. The distribution of commercials/CD’s etc. can be accomplished quickly, easily and inexpensively with such technologies as Liquid Audio or the infamous MP3 encoding. No need for satellite or DCI.

It is clear that fragmentation will heavily impact on media consumption habits.

The question is, when will the consumer demand some sort of consolidation or one stop shopping? Something as simple as leaving a message has become cumbersome. Check your email, then your office voicemail, your faxes, the receptionist, then check the clock……it’s time to go home. And that is nothing compared to your media choices. How would you like it served up? Via cable (regular or ISDN lines), satellite, antenna, VHS, DVD, CD or the internet (through streaming audio/video)? I’m sitting here surrounded by electronic devices and so many clickers that I don’t know which direction to point in. It seems logical that we will turn to the brains of the operation, the computer, for an answer. It should be a matter of time before the television, radio, stereo, gaming systems and recording devices are centralized in a multi-tasking computer, preferably with something better than a mouse on which to (double)click.

While some stations have wisely begun to take advantage of this new world by broadcasting over the web, we haven’t yet scraped the surface of possibilities.

Think about how many stations have their web site listed as part of a promotional budget. It will soon make more sense to think of a radio station as a promotional expense for the related website. Broadcasters can use the airwaves to draw them in and get them online where the potential for interaction is so much greater. For those thinking of networking or syndicating your programming, the net is an instant international network. Give the shows to conventional broadcasters free of charge. They are effectively airing a commercial for your website.

One of the most important aspects of the new technology will be the ability to broadcast without geographic limitation. As the multicultural mosaic becomes an increasingly important part of our society and the marketing process, widely spread communities can be unified. Native people have already begun using  internet broadcasts to great advantage, bonding tribes that are geographically spread out in small, remote pockets. Look for Chinese, Italian, South Asian, and Portuguese internet broadcasts to become popular. For marketers facing the problem of segmented media consumption, this is a unique solution whereby they can achieve excellent reach against a target with similar habits/values. Aside from cultural considerations, the possibility of unifying lifestyle groups can be particularly appealing. Perhaps a certain group isn’t sufficiently large in any given market (particularly smaller markets) to warrant their own programming. But, when taken en masse across Canada, voila. Gays, teens, Christians, etc. This potential is virtually untapped. Those who try to hang on to broad demos (e.g. Adults 25-54) until the last possible moment will ultimately be segmented out of existence.

Research becomes much simpler when consumers are connected to your website. Forget about focus groups. They are already on the line. The accuracy in terms of hit counts is tremendous.

While it is true that the number of websites is huge, it is equally true that a select few sites are doing most of the business. 75% of web surfers go to 50 sites or less. The key is registering properly with search engines such as Yahoo and developing affiliations with sites that attract large numbers of hits. The Motorola site, broadcast.com, is a prime example of a well constructed site. Start there and link to just about any need you have. Go shopping and bid on any product imaginable, buy CD’s, watch live TV, listen to live radio broadcasts, get newsclips, information, or just chat with people. This kind of all encompassing site is a starting point for a wide number of people who share roughly similar lifestyle tastes. By controlling the jump off point, you speak to people before the inevitable fragmentation takes place. Bill G. might say that it is like controlling the windows through which people look at the world.

I think I’m beginning to see the light.

A Home Run

(Published in KW Record)

If I were a sports reporter, I might call it a home run for satellite radio. But since this is the entertainment section, I’ll just give you the highlights of the recent CRTC decision, one which marks a significant moment in the history of radio in Canada. With their approval of three subscription (pay radio) licenses, the CRTC issued an emphatic yes to new technologies which Chairman Charles Dalfen declared “will help to give Canadian talent exposure to listeners across Canada and indeed, North America-both through new Canadian channels and airplay on U.S. channels.”

The first step took place last November with the CRTC hearings in Ottawa/Hull at which 3 satellite/subscription applications were presented. These included the XM/Canadian Satellite Radio (which triggered the process) and Sirius/CBC/Standard satellite proposals along with the CHUM Ltd. terrestrial/DAB offering. I was there testifying in support of the concept of approving all three licenses. In the room was a who’s who of Radio in Canada. The lobbying for intervention support leading up to all of this was intense. So much hand shaking and arm twisting took place that few people in the radio or music industries were left with shoulder sockets in tact. After that came the hand wringing as everyone awaited the decision which was over 7 months in coming.

Here are some of the key facts.

Canadian Satellite Radio (XM)/ Sirius
  1. Each of the satellite licensees must offer at least eight original channels. A maximum of nine foreign channels may be offered for each Canadian channel.
  2. At least 85% of the content on those 8 Canadian channels must be CANCON
  3. At least 25% of the 8 Canadian channels must be in the French language
  4. At least 25% of the music on the 8 Canadian channels must be new Canadian music
  5. A further 25% of the music must be by emerging Canadian artists
  6. Each satellite service will feature a total of 80+ stations broadcasting to all of North America in digital sound. This will include a wide variety of music, multilingual, talk and comedy formats.
  7. Subscription rates have not yet been announced, but expect something in the $13 per month range.
  8. 6 minutes per hour of national (no local) advertising will be permitted

Auto manufacturers are chomping at the bit for satellite in Canada. Michael Grimaldi, president of GM Canada immediately issued a statement saying “without doubt, satellite radio is the biggest advancement in mobile audio technology in the last 60 years and we plan to present it (Canadian Satellite Radio) in our upcoming models.”

In addition to being factory installed in new vehicles, satellite radio is now widely available at audio retail in the US and will soon be in Canada. Receivers by Polk and Yamaha allow for integration into your home stereo. It is also available through numerous manufacturers such as Sony, Alpine, Pioneer, and Panasonic, for dashboard install to rejuvenate your car stereo. Perhaps the most vibrant sector of Satellite Radio equipment is in the portable and plug and play category. These devices can interface with your car stereo through wireless FM modulators, they can hook up to your home stereo unit through a hardwired cradle and some simply plug into a boombox for true portability. These devices are currently manufactured by Delphi, Audiovox, Pioneer, and Tao.

The artists/musicians/comedians with whom I have recently spoken are equally enthralled about the satellite broadcasters' commitment to new talent and niche formats as well as the opportunity to reach the U.S. market.
The subscription radio applicants don’t see themselves itself as being in competition with conventional radio, but rather as a compliment to it. One that offers cutting edge niche programming that mass appeal stations can’t afford to deliver. The presumption here is that rather than cannibalize tuning to existing traditional stations, satellite will help to revitalize listeners and increase overall tuning to the medium, weaning attention away from video games, MP3/CD players, etc.

CHUM/Astral
  • The CHUM/Astral subscription radio application involves a progressive rollout of urban centres that would initially deliver 50 commercial-free satellite digital channels, produced entirely in Canada consisting of at least 20% in the French language.
  • All channels would adhere to current CANCON minimum required by Commission regulations.
  • The primary difference with this initiative is the fact that it wouldn’t be national as such, but rather would involve a series of terrestrially based stations in larger markets across the country sharing programming.
  • Auto manufacturers have said that they won’t support the CHUM platform, leaving them to concentrate on the portable/home market alone.

CHUM representatives have repeatedly said that they would not launch if all three applications were approved. Most industry pundits agree that it would be economically impractical for CHUM to attempt to launch given the cost of producing 50+ channels and the formidable satellite competition.

The number of satellite subscribers in the U.S. is over 5 1/2 million and growing rapidly. This has the added benefit of revitalizing the radio receiver industry at retail. Expect the same to be true of the Canadian experience

Listeners and artists alike have been demanding change and they are, in all likelihood, about to get it. The radio industry (and it would appear the CRTC) is listening to them. Stay tuned.


Consensus reached on radio audience measurement; next up? sample size

Some dilemmas require the wisdom of Job. Unfortunately, my name is David. When I took on my role as chair of the BBM Continuous/Extended Measurement Committee, I knew that this issue would prompt a vigorous discussion in all sectors of the radio and advertising communities. Little did I know that "extended" would come to refer to the lifespan of the committee as we sought a compromise position. After more than a year, a series of formal and informal meetings and various presentations, the moment has arrived. Now that we have finalized this matter, we can move on to something simpler like dividing up the Gaza strip.

We set out to come up with a determination amidst a flurry of position papers, press releases and significant amounts of lobbying on the most senior levels. The truth is that all of this activity says something very positive. Even though the topic may at first seem somewhat dry, it is clear that BBM audience measurement is the currency that is deemed vital by both buyers and sellers.

And the people at BBM are both conscientious and serious about their job. There was a consensus on all sides we do something positive for the industry and that we act in unison. Thus the need for a compromise. Most importantly, a genuine passion for radio was evident throughout the discussions. As we move toward an uncertain technological future, it is that passion which will allow the medium to survive and thrive.

BBM is jointly owned and controlled by broadcasters, advertisers and agencies. In fairness, it is important to point out that the broadcasters contribute the large majority of operational costs. It was clear from the outset that advertisers/agencies prefer continuous year-long measurement. Functionally, this would mean 48 weeks since weeks surrounding Christmas, for example, are impractical for enlisting diary keepers.

Among broadcasters, there are a wide variety of opinions concerning the optimal number of weeks and timing for surveys. Valid points were made on all sides. As part of the equation, the significant cost of an increased number of surveys (not to mention increased sample size) has to be factored in.

In the final analysis, the following is an overview of the extended measurement which will proceed in two phases over the next two fiscals. I should add that this is seen as the beginning, not the end. This is a transitional process by which we seek to establish an ever improving and more reliable approach to radio audience measurement.

Extending BBM Radio Measurement
4 Books: 28 Weeks 04/05

May 2-June 26, 2005 August 10 Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal
July 4-July 17, 2005 September 21 Top 9 Markets
Aug. 1-Aug. 14, 2005    

Extending BBM Radio Measurement
4 Books: 30 Weeks 05/06

Survey Window Publication Notes
Sept. 5- Oct. 30, 2005 December 7 All Markets
Jan. 9-March 5, 2006 April 12 All 2 book + Top 9 Markets
May 1-June 25, 2006 July 28 Top 9 Markets
July 3-July 16, 2006 September 29 Top 9 Markets
July 31-Aug. 27, 2006    
  • This increase in the number of radio audience surveys and weeks of measurement in the Top 9 markets should be viewed in the context of other significant improvements that BBM has introduced in the past year. These include:
  • 30% sample increase for 42 large and Metro markets.
  • Special $5 incentive for respondent households with Male 18-24 resulting in significant improvement in survey return rate for this demo.
  • Guaranteed measurement of all radio markets with a 12+ population of 60,000 or more.
  • Member access to audience data for all significant Canadian stations i.e. greater than a 1.0% share in Top 9 markets, 5.0% share or greater in other markets.
  • Introduction of Random Digit Dialing for respondent enumeration resulting in more representative samples.


Now that peace has returned to the kingdom, perhaps we can all pack up our position papers and leave lobbying to the full-time politicians. Or perhaps not. We are currently examining the other issues deemed to be of critical importance, among them...sample size. A few of the broadcasters feel strongly that they would like to increase sample size and thereby lessen any statistical bounce. This, of course, comes with a hefty price tag. It remains to be seen if those same broadcasters will dig deep and the funding will be forthcoming.

On the not-too-distant horizon are a few developments that could significantly affect survey methodology. With the almost certain advent of subscription/satellite radio, the number of stations to be measured will increase exponentially. While this will certainly generate listener excitement and a further revitalization of the medium, it presents some measurement challenges that we are currently studying.

And that brings us to the next point. Portable people meters. These combined television/radio meters have been thoroughly tested by BBM in Quebec. They are currently being used for television measurement. The radio implications have yet to be fully fleshed out. Since the system is passive and picks up the encrypted station signals, reporting is very simple and reliable. No relying on a diary keeper's memory. Next, use of the meters certainly implies continuous measurement. Even more important is how the use of meters might have an effect on reported tuning. Early experience in tests show that while the average diary keeper reports listening to three stations, the meter reports show that same person listening to six stations. The use of panels involves far fewer respondents than the diary methodology (with an ever changing base of diary keepers), but monitors them much more comprehensively. This could produce significantly different results.

The next steps for the survey committee involve education. It is critical that buyers and sellers be equipped to take advantage of the significant resources afforded them by BBM. After all, research is only as good as the analysts using it. So break out the bugles. After that, perhaps the committee can take a holiday in the middle east.


(Published in "Media in Canada")






 

Satellite radio gets greenlight

There are but a few defining moments in the history of any industry. The CRTC decision unveiled at 4pm yesterday maps out a future for radio that will undoubtedly energize listeners from coast to coast. With their approval of three subscription licenses, the CRTC issued an emphatic yes to new technologies which Chairman Charles Dalfen, in a crystal clear (you might say digital) fashion, declared "will help to give Canadian talent exposure to listeners across Canada and indeed, North America-both through new Canadian channels and airplay on U.S. channels." John Bitove, chairman CEO and founder of Canadian Satellite Radio, the firm that triggered this entire process, said "this is a tremendous opportunity for all Canadians and an evolutionary milestone in maintaining our country's leadership position within the global broadcasting industry." Kevin Shea, President & CEO of Sirius Canada remarked that "the commission has worked hard to give us a reasonable and creative framework within which we can move toward providing Canadians with an outstanding programming line-up."

The first critical step took place last November with the CRTC hearings in Ottawa/Hull at which three satellite/subscription applications were presented. These included the XM/Canadian Satellite Radio and Sirius/CBC/Standard satellite proposals along with the CHUM terrestrial/DAB offering. In the room was a who's who of Radio in Canada. The lobbying for intervention support leading up to all of this was intense. So much hand shaking and arm twisting took place that few people in the radio or music industries were left with shoulder sockets in tact. After that came the hand wringing as everyone awaited the decision which was over seven months in coming.

If I were a sports reporter I would call this a home run for satellite. Here are the need-to-know facts from the decision.

Canadian Satellite Radio (XM)/ Sirius

  • * Each of the satellite licensees must offer at least eight original channels
  • * At least 85% of the content on Canadian channels must be CANCON
  • * At least 25% of the Canadian channels must be in the French language
  • * At least 25% of the music on the Canadian channels must be new Canadian music
  • * A further 25% of the music must be by emerging Canadian artists
  • * Licensees much contribute at least 5 % of their gross annual revenues to Canadian talent development initiative such as FACTOR
  • * Re-broadcasting of existing services in their entirety (such as the Sirius re-broadcast of CBC services) would not be permitted. "At least 50% of the programming on each of the 8 channels... (must be) original Canadian programming"
  • * 6 minutes per hour of national (no local) advertising will be permitted
  • * Satellite services will feature 100+ stations broadcasting to all of North America in digital sound

As we already know, auto manufacturers are chomping at the bit for satellite in Canada. Michael Grimaldi, president of GM Canada issued a statement saying "without doubt, satellite radio is the biggest advancement in mobile audio technology in the last 60 years and we plan to present it (Canadian Satellite Radio) in our upcoming models."

The artists/musicians/comedians with whom I have recently spoken are equally enthralled about the satellite broadcasters' commitment to new talent and niche formats as well as the opportunity to reach the U.S. market.

The subscription radio applicants don't see themselves as being in competition with conventional radio, but rather as a compliment to it. One that offers cutting edge niche programming that mass appeal stations can't afford to deliver. The presumption here is that rather than cannibalize tuning to existing traditional stations, satellite will help to revitalize listeners and increase overall tuning to the medium, weaning attention away from video games, MP3 players, etc.

CHUM/Astral

  • * The CHUM/Astral subscription radio application involves a progressive rollout of urban centres that would initially deliver 50 commercial-free satellite digital channels, produced entirely in Canada consisting of at least 20% in the French language
  • * All channels would adhere to current CANCON minimum required by Commission regulations
  • * The CHUM/Astral initiative would feature subsidized digital receivers that would offer both traditional free access for conventional DAB stations as well as their subscription channels. The primary difference with this initiative is the fact that it wouldn't be national as such, but rather would involve a series of terrestrially based stations in larger markets across the country sharing programming
  • * Auto manufacturers have said that they won't support the CHUM platform, leaving them to concentrate on the portable/home market alone

Paul Ski, Executive Vice-President: Radio, CHUM said "we are extremely disappointed with the Commission's decision.....It is unrealistic to expect that an all-Canadian service such as ours can compete with undertakings whose channels are 90% U.S. originated." CHUM representatives have repeatedly said that they would not launch if all three applications were approved. Most industry pundits agree that it would be economically impractical for CHUM to attempt to launch given the cost of producing 50+ channels and the formidable satellite competition.

The number of satellite subscribers in the U.S. is over 5 1/2 million and growing rapidly. This has the added benefit of revitalizing the radio receiver industry at retail. Expect the same to be true of the Canadian experience

Listeners and artists alike have been demanding change and they are, in all likelihood, about to get it. The radio industry (and it would appear the CRTC) is listening to them. You are about to hear the future. Stay tuned.

 

A new generation

Radio people are always looking for new ways to generate revenue.  Few, could argue that, in order to do so, radio has had to reinvent itself over the years.  It is that very flexibility which has allowed the medium to thrive during different ages.  Now is the time to address a new generation of opportunities.

The little guy makes a big impression

I find myself at a loss for words. I make no claim to being the purveyor of profound insights. In fact, I am constantly astonished by how little I really know. The awareness of that fact comes with time and experience. The certainty of youth soon gives way to a sometimes confused pondering of various perspectives. Perhaps I can best summarize with the title of a piece I wrote, "The More I Learn, The Less I Know." But sometimes you are struck by words and actions that resonate with such emotion that for at least a moment, a truth becomes clear.

A few months ago I wrote a column that was "a Tribute to the little guy." A simple tribute to good people making excellent contributions in the broadcasting/advertising/marketing industries for whom no Hall of Fame, lavish lunches or spectacular sendoffs wait in store.

I wrote of my respect for those facing mid-life crises in the form of layoffs.

I'll say it again. These people are my heroes. I concluded with the following:

"In the end, I will remember those who gave it their all, acting with humanity, and always keeping their priorities straight. After all, a great cost per point, a number one in the ratings, or one's ability to exceed sales quotas aren't really worth much as an epitaph. I know that, to some, this sentiment may seem quaint or even humorous. We'll probably never share the same values.

The ones I respect are all those that face adversity with dignity. That fight on for their families while maintaining the respect of their friends. I may not be able to afford a gala, but you'll always be welcome at my place for dinner."

I thank both the RTNDA and Dick Smyth for reprinting the piece.

I have to say that when I wrote those words, it never occurred to me that I was doing anything more than spitting into the wind. With age, we can also become jaded and a bit cynical. Then a series of responses began to come in. Your notes resonated with me in a way that my simple words can't begin to express. Most of all, it left me with the sense that there are some very special people out there with their hearts and values in the right place. The responses came from people in senior and junior positions. From those who have faced difficult circumstances and those who have good luck (so far).

Many just wrote to express their agreement with the sentiment:

"There are a great many of us who share your sentiment and don't find it quaint or humorous. On behalf of all the little guys...."

"I could not agree with you more. We must remember if it wasn't for the people in the trenches most companies would not be where they are today."

"I didn't want to vent as I am one of those left behind. I just wanted to thank you for recognizing the forgotten ones. It's people like you that in the long run make the difference."

One person maintained their sense of humour:

"Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and the scars). As it has been some years since I found myself in that situation, it's still a tender memory, tender as in "that still hurts" as opposed to a fond thought. Granted, we all rise above adversity and in many cases, good things come from a major paradigm shift - but it still doesn't change the emotional impact, which you so eloquently captured in your article."

One person offered a succinct response to the rash of layoffs:

"I'm keeping my head down, flying below the radar, and not making any waves, hoping to make it to retirement without getting gassed. Hell of a way to end a career."

Another looks back:

"My memory of 30 years in radio is full of names of talented people who haven't survived and have moved on to other things. Too bad. Perhaps your reminder of the humanity of our business will remind some manager/owner somewhere to recall that this is a 'people' business."

Many of the responses were very personal:

"I am personally acquainted with half a dozen or more of those people, and married to one. I too am in the broadcast industry, but so far have escaped the dragon's teeth....Kudos to you for pointing out the injustice, and for patting the little guys on the back. It's not what they really want, but a little recognition of their plight is like salve on an open wound. I hope someone in a leather chair is listening, and sees a reflection of themselves in your message. Thank you."

Some reflected on those talented middle aged people facing difficult circumstances:

"...the unsung heroes of our business who are put out to pasture in their 40's and 50's... If people in the business think Grey Power was a powerful force just wait till the boomers start flexing their collective might..."

One of the most moving notes came from a daughter:

"my father sent me a copy of your piece on job loss. He just lost his job after working for the company for 24 years. He now finds himself being one of the middle management with no where to go. He sent me a copy of what you wrote because it really touched him. Recently I attended a big send off for someone in my company, and I spent a large part of the evening thinking how much my father deserved one. Instead he was laid off over the phone.

It makes me feel wonderful to know that there are still decent people in the business world. After how my father has been treated, I've been left with very little hope. Thank you for what you've written, I know you've made my father feel much better about what has happened to him and hopefully your words will encourage others to treat laid off people with more respect."

While I don't know the gentleman referred to, he must be very special indeed to have raised such a daughter. In my heart, people like her father will always be the true heroes. I suppose we are all best judged by those whose lives we have truly touched.

Your words, stories and sentiments are more articulate than I could ever hope to be. I want to express my profound thanks for showing me that, despite days when it seems like the opposite, there are some very fine people out there sharing values that make us all a little bit stronger. I may not know much, but that is one truth I won't forget.



(Printed in "Broadcaster Magazine")


DAB - Have you Heard - Broadcasters Prepare To Launch DAB In Ottawa

Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. (DRRI), today announced that applications have been filed with the CRTC and Industry Canada, laying the groundwork for the launch of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in the nation’s capital early in 2002. Notification has been filed by all of the major broadcasters currently active in the market including Astral Radio Inc., CBC/Radio Canada, CHUM Ltd., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc., Telemedia Radio Inc.

Duff Roman, President of DRRI, made the announcement at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) 75th Annual Convention, currently being held in Ottawa. Mr. Roman declared that "I’m pleased to see the ever-increasing support for DAB in Canada. This enthusiasm has helped to position our nation as a world leader in the development of digital radio. It is only fitting that listeners in the country’s seat of power be treated to the power of DAB - superb digital audio with the addition of value-added datacasting services."

Currently, over 55 DAB stations have made service available to 10 million people in Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, and Montreal. A comprehensive engineering study is also underway which will plan for new digital audio broadcasting (DAB) stations to serve the major population corridors in Canada. Covered by the new services will be all markets between
Toronto - Windsor, Toronto - Ottawa, Toronto - Montreal, Montreal - Quebec City, Calgary - Edmonton, and Vancouver - Greater Fraser Valley. The planned expansion will add a series of markets including Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Cambridge, Guelph, Cornwall, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Quebec City, Trois Rivieres and Chilliwack.

Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. (DRRI), is a non-profit joint initiative of major private broadcasters (Astral Radio Inc., CHUM Ltd., Corus Entertainment Inc., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc., Telemedia Radio Inc.), a number of smaller private broadcasters, and public broadcasters (CBC, Radio Canada) with the support of the Canadian government.
DRRI’s mandate is the introduction of digital audio broadcasting services across Canada. DAB is the replacement technology for current AM and FM analogue transmission.

DAB - Have you Heard - General Motors of Canada Puts DAB On The Road

General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL) announced today that GM will become the first automaker to deliver factory installed DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) technology to the automobile marketplace. This stunning development is the culmination of a strategic alliance formed between GM of Canada and Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. ( DRRI). The two have been working together since 1998 to develop a made-in-Canada digital radio solution. The Oshawa-built Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo will be among the first models available with DAB.

Maureen Kempston Darkes, President and General Manager of GM of Canada made the announcement at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) 75th Annual Convention saying “digital radio is the future of broadcasting in Canada. It provides consumers with new features such as CD quality sound and value-added data services. GM plans to be the
automaker of choice when it comes to digital technology and mobile commerce.” An enthusiastic Duff Roman, President of DRRI, declared that "this announcement establishes Canada as a world leader in digital radio. I am thrilled that, very soon, hundreds of thousands of GM car buyers will be treated to the true power of DAB - superb digital audio with the addition of value-added datacasting services delivered seamlessly to major markets across Canada. GM is to be applauded for its vision.”

Michael McCabe, President and CEO, Canadian Association of Broadcasters said "GM's announcement today reflects the inroads being made to really drive home the importance of DAB to the broadcasting system in Canada. Now, more and more Canadians have access to this technology where they go about their daily lives - in their homes, in their offices and now in
their cars."

Currently, over 55 DAB stations have made service available to 10 million people in Vancouver, Toronto, Windsor, and Montreal. Ottawa is next in line to be added to the market list, with preparation underway for an airdate of early 2002. Planned expansion into all major corridors will add a series of markets including Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Guelph, Cornwall, Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton, Quebec City, Trois Rivieres and Chilliwack. Digital Radio Roll-Out Inc. ( DRRI), is a non-profit joint initiative of major private broadcasters (Astral Media Inc., CHUM Ltd., Corus Entertainment Inc., Rogers Media, Standard Radio Inc., Telemedia Radio Inc.), a number of smaller private broadcasters, and public broadcasters (CBC, Radio Canada) with the support of the Canadian government. DRRI’s mandate is the introduction of digital audio broadcasting services across Canada. DAB is the replacement technology for current AM and FM analogue transmission.


The Race Is On

Listen carefully and you can hear the countdown. The race is on and nothing less than the future of the radio industry in Canada is at stake.

The first critical step took place with the early November CRTC hearings in Ottawa/Hull at which 3 satellite/subscription applications were presented. In the room was a who’s who of Radio in Canada. The lobbying for intervention support leading up to all of this was intense. So much hand shaking and arm twisting took place that few people in the radio or music industries are left with shoulder sockets in tact. It would appear that traditional broadcasters have seen the writing on the wall since CHUM, Astral, Standard, CBC/Radio Canada, Rawlco and Corus are all throwing their hats into the ring in one way or another. Traditional radio remains very strong but continues to face the challenges of declining teen tuning and the restlessness of a public hungry for more while being accustomed to feasting on a variety of specialty television stations. For its part, the CRTC will be eager to avoid the grey market problems experiences with the implementation of satellite television.

Make no mistake, the Canadian radio industry overall remains healthy from both a financial perspective (with 2003 ad revenues of $1.2 billion, up 8.4% year over year) and in terms of audience tuning with a 94.8 percent national weekly reach and 21.8 hours tuned weekly per capita (A18+, BBM Spring 2004). Some signs are less than encouraging. Both BBM and the recently released Statistics Canada study confirm dramatic decreases in hours tuned per capita for teens.

Troubling for some listeners and from a music industry standpoint is the lack of new music and the lack of formatic variety. Especially in a world where CHR formats continue to give way to more gold based formats such as Jack, Dave, Bob, etc. Not that the radio industry should be making any apologies. Traditional stations are funded by ad revenue which demands that they strive to have broad-based appeal, garnering as many adults 25-54 as possible. This dictates familiar music without the risk of exposing new music or niche formats. Added to that are local news, weather and traffic. The truth is that broadcasters are currently doing a very good and professional job of it. Still, this underlines the need for complimentary services committed to exposing groundbreaking new music and a tapestry of vital niche formats that cry out to be heard. It seems clear that, as opposed to cannibalizing existing hours tuned, these complimentary services will repatriate listeners to radio and generate an excitement missing for generations. Folk, alt country, comedy, roots, electronica, blues, bluegrass, opera, jazz, singer-songwriter and a good deal more will now be given a second look and listen. Since these new stations would be driven by subscription revenue, the need to be all things to all people vanishes. Instead, the stations can strive to exist on their own terms, offering listeners something truly unique.

Heads were turned when three applications were submitted by the filing date. These include the XM/Canadian Satellite Radio and Sirius/CBC/Standard satellite proposals along with the CHUM Ltd. terrestrial/DAB offering. Radio observers here expected a two-way race focusing on the discussion of satellite, but CHUM took the opportunity to look at an alternative approach using Digital Audio Broadcasting in major markets. The three subscription radio applicants don’t see themselves itself as being in competition with conventional radio, but rather as a compliment to it. One that offers cutting edge niche programming that mass appeal stations can’t afford to deliver. Initial research seems to bear this out, although, it is too early to tell. It is worth noting that the subscription applicants include the major broadcast groups in the country who might be loathe to proceed if they felt they were going to cannibalize their own audience and revenue bases. There is a commitment from all concerned not to include local weather and traffic, a mainstay of conventional radio. From a marketing perspective there would be the opportunity for advertising on some talk stations while the music would be free of conventional ads. On the other hand, there would seem to be substantial opportunities for sponsorship on those stations which could prompt some very innovative marketing approaches.

The initial consideration of subscription radio was triggered by the application made by Canadian Satellite Radio, a partnership with John Bitove (a well known Canadian entrepreneur) and XM Satellite Radio. Bitove has put together a formidable team comprised of some of the country’s most respected artists, programmers, analysts and entertainment industry VIP’s. CSR is promising 100+ channels of nationwide music and information that would serve both urban and rural areas from coast to coast. The 5 unique channels (in the initial phase) to be produced in Canada include a variety of niche music programmes in both English and French hosted by noted Canadian

musicians/personalities as well as an All Comedy station which Mark Breslin (C.E.O. of Yuk Yuk’s International) calls “the best opportunity to expose Canadian comedy that I’ve seen in many years”. As in the U.S., there is an agreement to include XM receivers in GM vehicles made and sold in Canada (starting with the 2006 models should the license be awarded in time),

The Sirius satellite team (with CBC and Standard as partners) headed up by Kevin Shea features another strong team with substantial traditional radio experience. They would also promise 100+ channels of nationwide music and information with 5 unique Canadian offerings. The value of the CBC to Canadians is highly regarded by Heritage Canada (a government ministry protecting Canadian culture) and the CRTC. The CBC sided with Sirius, in part, due to its technical preference for the 3 constantly moving satellites which promise good coverage of certain rural areas. Experts seem to be divided on the benefits of the XM versus the Sirius satellite systems, both of which boast certain advantages.

The CHUM/Astral subscription radio application involves a progressive rollout of urban centres that will initially deliver 50 commercial-free satellite digital stations in a variety of formats with the much-touted digital benefits… reliable reception, crystal clear sound, and a data display . The CHUM/Astral initiative would feature subsidized digital receivers that would offer both traditional free access for conventional DAB stations as well as their subscription stations. The primary difference with this initiative is the fact that it wouldn’t be national as such, but rather would involve a series of terrestrially based stations in larger markets across the country sharing programming.

The CHUM application stresses the fact that all of the stations will meet or exceed the Canadian Content requirements mandated by the CRTC for traditional stations. The satellite applicants point to their ability to broadcast Canadian music into the U.S. on their CANCON only stations as well as playlisting an increased amount of Canadian music on the American based stations.

CANCON on conventional stations, while meeting the regulatory requirements, does relatively little to assist new or niche artists. Innumerable formats are left without voices. The primary result is having the likes of Celine Dione or Avril Lavigne move into ever higher rotation. The enthusiasm of independent Canadian artists for this subscription opportunity is infectious. Many major talents are looking at radio with renewed vigor and hope.

The monthly subscription fee for any one of the services will be in the $10-$13 per month range. The two satellite offerings have the auto industry on board for factory installed radios. XM (with its Elton John commercials in the U.S.) has also begun to tout its portable radios. The CHUM group, owners of MuchMusic and a variety of related properties, will initially focus on a young target group with portable radios. At the hearings, both the Canadian Satellite Radio team and the Sirius/Standard/CBC teams argued that the CRTC should license all three applicants and let the consumers decide which they prefer. CHUM/Astral argued that they would need to be the sole license winner in order for their model to be economically practical.

Satellite/subscription radio, with its wide diversity of formats, will make an important cultural contribution to radio listeners in Canada. Niche formats, normally lost in the melting pot of traditional radio will be given the voice that they deserve. Moreover, numerous Canadian artists, who wouldn’t normally receive much airplay on traditional stations, will be afforded the opportunity to have their music heard by a much wider audience, both across Canada and the sizeable U.S. market. This, in turn, affords our artists increased touring opportunities and CD sales. Listeners benefit by having access to cutting edge formats and exposure to artists that they might not otherwise hear. All this without giving up traditional local radio stations. It is the best of both worlds. It seems clear that this is the next step in the evolution of radio. One that is critical to the artistic and financial success of Canadian performers and writers.

The number of satellite subscribers in the U.S. is about 3 million and growing rapidly. This has the added benefit of revitalizing the radio receiver industry at retail. Expect the same to be true of the Canadian experience. In terms of a grey market, it is estimated that many thousands of Canadians are already listening to satellite radio.

Listeners and artists alike have been demanding change and they are, in all likelihood, about to get it. The radio industry is listening to them. I think I hear the future….stay tuned.


(Published in "Marketing Magazine")



CANCON: Songs In Search Of An Audience

The closest I'll ever come to the upper crust is the stale loaf in the back of my cupboard. All you'll find in common between Bill Gate's bank account and mine are the zeros. Still, I consider myself very fortunate. I've had the opportunity to be exposed to a good deal of great music and work with some outstanding artists. Like many of those people who share my passion for radio, it all started with a love of music. Money was never the motivator. Had Bill Gates concentrated on radio instead of computers, his bank account might more look like mine. But no matter. Canada has undeniably produced some of the world's great musicians and songwriters. The quality of artists that this country has produced is disproportionate to our size. And radio has, for the most part, served them well in the past. But the nature of the record business has changed dramatically. Very few new artists are being signed by major labels. At the same time, the formatic reality of most mainstream stations has made it exponentially more difficult to break new music. Where do we go from here?

I can't say I agree with those who complain about the complacency and lack of originality in the programming of mainstream stations. The charge is that these stations aren't challenging listeners in the way they should. It is true that the programmers are very careful not to give loyal listeners unfamiliar music. Still, those stations do an excellent job of giving their core listeners what they want in a well researched, polished and professional fashion. It would be arrogant to suggest that listeners aren't bright enough to know what they should want to hear. At the same time, this does prompt a dilemma. The number of CHR stations is diminishing, giving way to more gold based formats such as Jack, Dave, Bob, etc. Per Capita Hours Tuned for Teens as reported by BBM have declined dramatically over the last 4 years. Many young adults and older listeners who favour niche formats are disenfranchised.

We must always remember that garnering sufficient ad revenue is the determining factor in programming mainstream radio. Remember too that teen targets account for well under 1% of all ad spending. Similarly, broadcasters must develop broad reach stations in order to remain viable to advertisers. Hence, the number of Adult Contemporary stations targeting Women 25-54 with a very conservative music mix.

CANCON on these stations, while meeting the regulatory requirements, does very little to assist new or niche artists. Innumerable formats are left without voices. The primary result is having the likes of Celine Dione or Avril Lavigne move into ever higher rotation. It also benefits gold artists like the Guess Who. Still, in their current incarnation, the CANCON regulations do little to assist up and coming artists needing a break. That, after all, was one of primary reasons for their existence in the first place. While all of this is taking place, the record industry is in dire straits as it tries to reinvent itself. Without any airplay, many new artists have little hope of CD/download sales or drawing significant audiences to live performances.

The answer would seem to be fairly clear. The 3 satellite/subscription applications being heard by the CRTC in early November have generated enthusiasm, excitement and groundbreaking opportunities unlike anything we have seen in decades. Their goal is not to supplant mainstream radio, but to supply a cultural alternative which doesn't have to rely on the dictates of advertisers. Both listeners and musicians would be the beneficiaries of a reinvigorated playing field. Folk, alt country, comedy, roots, electronica, blues, bluegrass, opera, jazz, singer-songwriter and a good deal more will now be given a second look and listen. Since these new stations would be driven by subscription revenue, the need to be all things to all people vanishes. Instead, the stations can strive to exist on their own terms, offering listeners something truly unique.

One of the most exciting opportunities which satellite brings about is the opportunity for Canadian artists to be broadcast to the lucrative U.S. market and ultimately, to the entire globe. I think back to the golden days of influential CKLW which was credited with breaking Canadian artists in the U.S. The new satellite applicants are both programming all-Canadian stations as well as producing Canadian programming for the existing U.S. based stations. Never before have we had an opportunity like this. If playing CANCON to Canadians is beneficial, then playing CANCON to the world is a windfall. Cultural exports will afford our artists significantly increased touring opportunities and CD sales. Most importantly, artists with absolutely no chance of mainstream airplay will now have vehicles in Canada and beyond. Listeners that crave a wider selection of formats will be rewarded. A much broader mix of cultures will be represented.

My answer to those dissatisfied with the status quo is that the answer doesn't lie in trying to re-format or re-think existing mainstream stations which continue to do an excellent job. Instead, the solution seems to lie with broadening our horizons both formatically and geographically. I may not have much money, but I, for one, find the wealth of these new musical options more rewarding than anything I have heard in years.

Show Me the Money!

For many broadcasters, agencies and advertisers, the end of August means pouring over a flood of fiscal end figures. In most stations across Canada, the same tune is echoing…..Show Me The Money! Perhaps it is time to go back to school and find out where all of the ad dollars are going.

The attached chart shows an estimate of national radio expenditures by demo from Sept. 1998 to July 1999. While a number of local buys lack a defined target, there is good reason to believe that these figures are roughly indicative of overall radio advertising activity. Given the current resurgence of CHR across Canada, I have broken out the percentage of buys which fall within the 12-24 and 12-34 core targets.

Per Centage Share of All Radio Buys for Target Demos*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portion Falling

Portion Falling

Age

Adults

Women

Men

Total

Within 12-34

Within 12-24

 

(%)

(%)

(%)

(%)

(Weighted %)

(Weighted %)

25-54

30.88

10.54

3.34

44.76

14.92

0

18-49

9.45

1.35

1.09

11.89

6.32

2.6

25-49

6.11

1.12

2.19

9.42

3.77

0

18-34

5.94

0.7

2.78

9.42

9.42

3.88

18+

4.00

0.02

0.82

4.84

1.31

0.54

18-24

1.52

0.01

2.16

3.69

3.69

3.69

35-54

1.33

0.49

0.52

2.34

0

0

25-64

1.38

0

0.02

1.4

0.35

0

25-34

0.1

0.04

0.74

0.88

0.88

0

12 to 24

0.77

0.1

0.03

0.9

0.9

0.9

35+

0.77

0.09

0.01

0.87

0

0

18-54

0.82

0.01

0.05

0.88

0.4

0.17

18-44

0.58

0.02

0

0.6

0.38

0.16

35-49

0.55

0

0.01

0.56

0

0

35-64

0.45

0.05

0

0.50

0

0

Teens 12-17

 

 

 

0.48

0.48

0.48

25+

0.29

0.03

0.16

0.48

0.09

0

25-44

0.25

0.03

0.02

0.30

0.15

0

12 to 34

0.11

0

0.06

0.17

0.17

0.1

55+

0.1

0.01

0

0.11

0

0

50+

0.1

0

0

0.10

0

0

Other (Religion,Farming,obscure demos, etc.)

5.41

0

0

 

 

 

 

100.00

43.23

12.52



As consumers’ media choices become more and more segmented, it will become increasingly important to establish dominance in a given niche. The days of being all things to all people are coming rapidly to an end. For now, Adults 25-54 claim an overwhelming share of ad dollars. So much so, that any station targeting groups outside that demo has often done so at its own peril.

One popular way of estimating a station’s potential revenue is to compare its share of hours tuned (A12+) to it share of market ad revenue. This simple ratio can be thrown out of whack by a variety of factors. To come up with a more accurate projection, we must take into consideration these variables and establish a power index, i.e. the multiple by which a specific station’s revenue share figures will over or under achieve its raw audience share figures. The variables which we must consider are:

Heritage:
Heritage stations will tend to outperform their overall share, especially on the retail buys where rating performance is less significant.

Core Target Demographics:
By far the most popular target group for advertisers is 25- 54 (44.76% of all buys).
Conversely teens are targeted in just 0.48% of all buys.
A station’s core demo relative to popular ad demos  therefore helps to determine a  station’s power index.

Niche Targeting:
This is becoming increasingly important. A station such with strength in a demographic niche where there is a large investment of ad dollars for a certain category (e.g. young adult males and beer) will overperform. The importance of boxcar demo numbers is superseded by performance with a given product usage or lifestyle category. For example, an all news station will tend to get a good deal of financial business that can drive significant overperformace.

When looked at from an advertiser’s perspective, there is a tremendous opportunity to target Teens and Adults 55+ with relatively little competition and very efficient rates.

It remains a mystery as to why more advertisers don’t target the older demo more intensely. This group often has significant discretionary income to spend on dinners out and other quality of life items. The traditional image of cash poor senior citizens who need a price break is simply not being borne out as the affluent baby boom bulge moves up the demo scale.

Another key area which has been woefully underanalyzed  is ethnic background. In Vancouver and Toronto, this component is especially important. Ethnicity is often far more important age when determining product usage and lifestyle choices. Again, it all comes down to niche targeting.

Having discussed the question of how radio’s allotted revenues are divvied up among stations, we must now ask how is the media doing overall? In the buoyant economy of the last couple of years, radio has been faring quite well. Still, sitting back in a self-satisfied fashion could be a fatal mistake. In this so-called boom period, radio’s growth is slower than overall ad growth. Radio has slipped to under 10% of all ad revenues. Let’s put this in perspective by saying radio (at about $900 million/year) is consistently underperforming the yellow pages. Now let’s talk about the $100+million revenues for the internet next year. Expect that figure to grow exponentially. You don’t need JoJo’s Psychic Hotline to tell you what investors think of radio-only stocks versus internet based stocks. The conclusion is simple. If, as a radio advertiser/broadcaster/supplier etc. you are not exploring and exploiting your radio- internet connections, I’ll give you the number of a good psychiatrist…he’s been waiting for you.

Have a great fiscal. Come next September, when someone shouts “Show Me The Money”, I want to see a number of you smiling as you point to the vault.

 










Where Do I Turn?

Where do I turn? That may have been the refrain coming from many of Erin Davis’ faithful listeners after she left CHFI-FM, but we now have an answer. Starting on Tuesday Sept. 7, in what will surely be a perfect fit, she will be co-hosting the morning
show with Mike Cooper on EZRock97.3.

The station recently asked listeners to phone or email their choice for a substitute while Christine takes maternity leave. The
overwhelming favourite came as no surprise. Erin made a lot of friends in the 15 years she spent hosting the morning the CHFI-FM morning show. In fact, she has received over 3,500 personal emails from listeners who have sought her out to say they feel like they lost a friend. And I happen to know that she took the time to answer every one.

P.D. Brian Depoe declared that “we are thrilled to have someone of Erin Davis’ calibre join the EZRock team”, confirming that he would also welcome her huge fan base. Since leaving her previous post, Erin has hosted her own show on WTN which is
currently in reruns. She is now looking forward to a full time return to radio.

In spite of corporate consolidation and networking, radio continues to be about community and human contact. The medium continues to touch people in a very personal way on a day to day basis. Erin has never forgotten the fact that she is a small but important part of listener’s lives, waking them up and cushioning their drive to work. She enthusiastically describes her ongoing goal of giving listeners “something they can relate to”, something more than just “chatter”. Think of it as a comfortable conversation between friends. Well she has just given them something new to talk about.

Welcome back Erin.



CRTC surprises by not shaking up radio rules

Last Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced the results of its commercial radio policy review. The process began with four intense days of hearings held this past May in Gatineau, Quebec. Since then, members of the broadcast, music and advertising industries have been anxiously waiting for the word to come down. The surprising payoff? The regulations were not altered.

One portion of the decision that did not attract much attention, but perhaps should have, was L-band licensees - which "will be free to develop whatever broadcast services they believe will be of the greatest interest to the listening public." Remember that DAB stagnated largely because stations were limited to replication of existing AM/FM programming, with the exception of 14 hours per week. Consumers weren't willing to buy new receivers unless they could get alternative programming. Bottom Line: Look for innovative, niche and multicultural broadcasters to exploit this in a big way.

Let's take a look at the highlights, and most importantly, the ramifications of the decision. The CRTC made mention of the stiff competition the medium faces from new regulated and unregulated technologies for the distribution of music (MP3 players, iPods, Internet radio, podcasting, downloading, satellite radio and cellphone radio). "The key challenge facing the radio industry is to remain relevant" in the face of such new technologies, said CRTC chairman Charles Dalfen.

Still, little in the review beyond new approaches to Canadian content development directly addresses these issues. While it was widely expected that a bonus or quota system for new and emerging artists would be introduced, the minimum level of Cancon remains at 35% without further restrictions. Upping it to 40% was considered, but rejected due to the competitive climate in which radio finds itself.

Regulations were changed for classical (raised to 25% from 10%) and jazz and blues (up to 20% from 10%), but this will have an effect on relatively few stations. Bottom line: The CRTC essentially deferred to broadcasters by not imposing more taxing regulations while they are gearing up for the fight with outside influences.

Some important changes were made in the approach to Canadian content development (CCD) contributions. The basic contribution system would be based on a radio station's revenues, as opposed to the size of the market in which it operates. The CAB issued a release saying that "the increased burden that will result from tying these initiatives to broadcasters' revenues is of some concern." Bottom line: This is the way it always should have been - pay on the ability to do so. Smaller niche stations will be the grateful winners in this scenario.

Bottom line: I have a sense that the real review of radio will be conducted by the listeners who are being confronted with all of these choices. Stay tuned.

The Unity Project - looking at both sides

In the world of Canadian media research, the Unity Project has been one of the most ambitious endeavours in recent years, one that sparked considerable discussion and debate. As with anything of this import, opinions seem to be divided regarding implementation. Let's take a look at Unity from both sides.

The initiative has been spearheaded by the Canadian Media Directors' Council, more specifically by well-known media director Hugh Dow. Dow terms it "our attempt to bring some order to Canadian media audience and project usage data."

Audience measurement sources have to date consisted of separate research associations funded by and dedicated to serving their membership constituencies. These include BBM (RTS), PMB, Nadbank, Nielsen, etc. It is true that many of the data sources are not comparable and, in fact, sometimes produce contradictory information. Which represents the "standard" is a very subjective observation. Some planners swear by PMB, while others point to the superior sample size of RTS (currently 57,000 nationally). There can be no dispute that there is a significant triplication of product usage categories between RTS, NADbank and PMB, although the exact natures of the questions differ. Similarly, the measurement periods and length of time between releases are quite different.

The goal of the Unity Project was to standardize demographic breaks, create better data linkage and allow for better inter-media comparisons by media planners. In essence to create one industry accepted source for product usage data. Of course, a dilemma arises when we recognize that ad agencies aside; we have far more than one industry screaming to be heard. There are a number of different industries being represented (print, newspaper, radio, television), each with a different mandate and each seeking a return on their investment.

Unity would seek to eliminate duplication among the various product usage databases. Confusion arises because apparently similar questions yield different results from the various studies. The solution is not as straightforward as it may seem. Even if there was agreement between the competing companies and amongst all their subscribers that one approach was possible/desirable, one or more of the studies would lose all of its historical data and therefore much of its value. How would they be compensated in such an event and by whom?

When one discusses duplication, there is a larger and more fundamental issue. The wording of the questions is different by design because the studies themselves were developed to serve very different needs from very different constituencies. Without unified needs, how do we go about achieving unified methodology?

Certain other project objectives seem to have evolved somewhat from the original proposal. For example, one of the original objectives was a significant reduction in hard costs to each of the industries. This has gone by the wayside since the original estimates were somewhat inaccurate. For example, RTS revenues were estimated to be $5 million when they were actually $1 million. It is also possible that the Unity Project, if implemented, would require a third party to coordinate sales and distribution of the data. This might mean that the overall cost could be more, not less.
 

Before Unity, there was no consistency in terms of demo breaks among the principal database providers, making it difficult to do intermedia comparisons. This has been largely corrected under the auspices of Unity.

Unity would drop local/retail type questions from PMB and replace them with comparable questions/data imported from NADbank or RTS. They would similarly drop national type questions from RTS and replace them with comparable questions/data from PMB. They would also seek to attach PMB (national) or NADbank/RTS (local) to BBM and Nielsen TV panel questions. After much testing and analysis, the media committee concluded that the fusion approach best met the objective of the Unity project.

The Unity vision of one industry accepted source (PMB) effectively demands that in future radio and newspaper subscribers be content with "fused" data as opposed to the "single source" data they now use and an industry accepted source that they consider to be inferior in sample size and implementation. While the fusion tests have been encouraging at a national level, the data does start to deteriorate rapidly as the requirements become more granular. Radio broadcasters and newspapers may very well ask why a magazine-oriented study should be the national database to which all others are fused.

The appeal of Unity to media planners everywhere is quite clear. And there can be little question that it is, in theory, a worthwhile and noble cause. The other side of the issue is the fact that competing industries invest in this research to give each an exclusive and competitive advantage. Some of those entrenched in individual camps have declared opposition to any such initiative. For example, those intimately involved with RTS, an excellent piece of research, feel the required concession would be hugely detrimental to the study and to radio broadcasters in general. The same can be said of NADbank or, to a lesser extent, PMB. Take away the competitive advantage and the rationale for the investment quickly disappears. It is clear that there are two (or more) sides to unity. The biggest question that remains to be surveyed is whether there is any possibility of a unified vision.


(Published in "Media in Canada" Magazine.)





 

SHORE 104 Prepares To Make Waves in Vancouver

SHORE 104, Vancouver's newest radio station, has the offices open and studio construction is underway. It was a bold application from an independent group of radio and music experts that won the last available FM frequency in Vancouver granted in June by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. In an industry dominated by corporate consolidation, insiders called this "a welcome win for the little guy". In all, there were 16 applications for the 104.1 frequency.