The latest Numeris ratings from Winnipeg Radio Stations is out. This shows Radio-Canada in the first place with 680 CJOB just behind. Even with changes in both radio stations with the ongoing pandemic, talk radio continues to occupy a strong position on music stations.

Here are the Numeris 2021 numbers for Winnipeg, with the Spring 2020 odds in parentheses:

  1. CBC Radio – 15.7 (16.7)
  2. 680 CJOB – 13.8 (12)
  3. QX 104 – 8.7 (9.1)
  4. Bounce 99.9 – 6.4 (6.6, last rated 99.9 BOB FM)
  5. Virgo 103 – 5.4 (4.9)
  6. 92 CITI-FM – 4.9 (4.8)
  7. Peggy 99.1 – 4.5 (3.9)
  8. Energy 106.1 – 4.1 (4.4)
  9. 94.3 now! – 4.1 (3.8, last odds 94-3 The Drive)
  10. Rating 97 – 4.1 (4.2)
  11. CBC Music FM (Radio 2) – 4.0 (3.8)
  12. Hot 100.5 FM – 2.8 (2.5)
  13. Kiss 102.3 FM – 2.7 (3.7)
  14. Funny 1290 – 0.8 (1.9, last rated TSN 1290)

It is difficult to compare the odds due to the pandemic resulting in format changes, retirements, massive layoffs and staff changes. For radio programmers, this is a new benchmark, but with a big asterisk: the pandemic continues. And if a radio station relied on commuting, it might not work at full capacity for a while.

This is the new normal and radio, like all other industries, needs to understand it. It’s sad to see TSN 1290 have to empty. The abandonment of radio broadcasts from the Jets and strong local sports figures has left a gaping hole. The new comedy channel has lower ratings than non-commercial radio. Plus, it has very little local content.

Some large companies have radio stations in Winnipeg. It is surprising how some of these stations produce so little content in Manitoba. It might be cheaper, but these stations tend to cluster near the bottom of the dial. It is a miracle that the CRTC considers them local. A few try to be consistent with the hosts. More on that later.

Not all stations are listed in the ratings. The two university radio stations are not listed nor the three French broadcasters. The multilingual station is not listed and neither is classical jazz and nostalgia radio. How much do they represent? Probably not a lot, but I listen to Goldeyes games on nostalgia and there are plenty of others as well. Christian radio is also not listed. And let’s not forget the native owned station, either. In all, there are 25 stations in the Winnipeg market, with losses from rural stations to start.

Recently, while chatting with a conference attendee, they said they had no idea who to turn to in the Winnipeg radio market for promotional links. They said in other markets there was real dominance of one or two big media companies… but in Winnipeg there was Corus, Bell, Rogers, Evanov and now Pattison to consider. In other cities, the choice has become obvious for a business connection. In other words, Winnipeg is a competitive market, which is a good thing. However, the bad thing is that too many people are clustered in the center and not making bold choices.

The only way to stand out is with your hosts. Winnipeg radio has always had subscribed material, but a sense of location demands a DJ who knows the territory. The most popular stations in town know this and pay well for a well-known host in the community. CBC, CJOB, Power 97 and Virgin Radio really put the emphasis on hosts and continuity in their positions.

Station 94.3 recently laid off all of its staff to return as 94.3 now! radio. At one point, 94.3 was the top station. They have made format changes in the past and have seen poor responses. Their format never changes enough and their on-air staff are too controlled to become a marketing force on their own. Stations regularly try to save money so you never know where the ax will fall. 92 ISIC does not have morning hosts at the moment although a loud morning show can keep people on your station all day.

While Bell Media has gutted TSN sports radio and paid for it by even lower numbers with a comedy channel, they’ve kept Burpee and Beau and their teams in place at Virgin and Bounce and it’s generally paying off. Friendly and engaged hosts in the community help your brand more than a show broadcast from Toronto. Corus did this recently with Anderson, Stevens and Aiello and their teams at CJOB, Peggy and Power 97.

The pandemic has prevented tours and music producers from promoting their material. While a lot has been produced musically, there is a connection when an artist is in an area and radio stations get interviews, run ticket contests, and get access to the stars. It helps the musician and it helps the radio. For talk radio stations like CJOB and CBC, it all depends on the sports. For CJOB, it is the quality of Jets and Bombers. For CBC, it will be the Olympics. Having good content and regular hosts will help, but there is real renewed interest in teams. It will be interesting to see if Anderson can make any breakthroughs on CBC that former host Currier kept close to him. And for CBC, it will be if the changes for the weekend hosts go through.

Time will only tell what 2022 will bring to the music industry and to radio. Satellite radio, Spotify, podcasting, and people-curated music will always play a huge role. But local content is the key. Lose it and you lose any reason people will read, watch or listen to you with any loyalty.

This is a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To learn more about John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations