Monday, 8 December 2008

Classical Music is "Steady Performer?" Tell That to the CBC

Even the CBC admits it: the new programming on Radio Two hasn'’t worked miracles in increasing its listenership according to the most recent BBM ratings. Of course, in a press release the CBC puts a good face on it. The formerly mostly serious music service had about the same number of listeners overall as in the last round of ratings sweeps, “Its share of 2.9 per cent is down slightly as expected.” the release said. It quoted Denise Dorion: "When you change a radio station as we did with Radio 2, you have to expect a dip in listening patterns before you gain new listeners."

That's not going to happen, I think. Certainly in the Toronto market the all-classical station CFMZ went up frm 4.1 per cent to 5 per cent: CBL FM remained steady at 1.9. Figures for Montreal—where all-classical CJPX competes with both Radio Two and Radio Canada’s Espace Musique--appear unavailable to the public. A new listenership survey system has just been put in place here. Listener-kept diaries are gone, replaced by electronic measurement of what households are listening too. Some figures are available free for stations which sell advertising—to sell advertising is the raison d’être of listenership surveys—but that means that there is no easily available way to see how many people are listening to non-commercial stations.

Maybe like Kremlinologists in the bad old days, we’ll be able to read between the lines if the CBC keeps us posted on what its ratings are. Certainly it is interesting that the Mother Corp is boasting of improvement in ratings for certain programs across the country: The Current 12 per cent (10.9 a year ago) , The World at Six 15.9 per cent (13.9), DNTO 8.1 per cent (7.3), Vinyl Tap 12.1 per cent (9.5), Cross Country Check-up 15.2 per cent (12.7). You’ll notice that with the exception of Vinyl Tap, these are hard news and opinion shows, and that Jian Gomeshi and Q are not among them.

And here’s an interesting bit of market analysis from Bohn and Associates, media analysts. Earlier this fall, they noted: "The Classical format continues to be a steady performer while flying under the radar of most mainstream broadcasters. Ranked fourth in the S1-2008 format sweepstakes, Classical garners more tuning than Classic Rock, Country, Gold, AOR and Modern Rock. The 15 stations programming Classical, which included the roster of CBC stations, is more than the amount programming Classic Rock, AOR or Modern Rock. Classical’s share of hours tuned continues to rise and is now up to a 6.7% share from a 6.2% in S1-2007, an increase of just over 8%. In addition to the CBC, there are privately owned Classical stations in Toronto (CFMZ) and Montreal (CJPX). With a 5.2% and 4.2% share 12+ respectively, both stations rank in the top 10 in their markets."


Gabe said...

This former daily listener thinks that the CBC has disappointed many (most?) of it's long-time audience with it's attempts to join the ranks of the 'cool'. CBC didn't gain it's audience by being cool; this former listener always appreciated the fact that it wasn't cool.

The CBC would do well to concentrate on it's core 'niche' market and forego the temporary 'what's hot and what's not' game of the 'popular' outlets.

Anonymous said...

Radio-Canada has been somewhat more successful in broadening its playlist while avoiding the dreaded curse of "cool" and those horrid programmes that aim to appeal to "youth" and wind up being as excruciating as Q. I love classics, but I am glad to have well-designed shows on world music, French song, blues and jazz as well.

CJPX has a very narrow and predictable playlist; often I tune into them when both Espace-Musique and CBC Radio 2 are particularly excruciating, but soon tire of the same old same old waltzes and overplayed standards of the Classic repertoire.