Market Analysis: Calgary

This month, we thought we’d start with the first of what’ll slowly become a periodic series of market explorations, digging deeper into some of the radio facts and figures that may not be well-known outside of the city in question. Fueled by several grande caramel macchiato’s, our research department set their caffeine-addled sights westward:

The 5th largest radio market in the country, Calgary has seen massive growth over the past 15-years, both in population (2011 Census 1,096,833) and in the number of broadcast signals available in the metro area.

Compared to the radio landscape that existed with its northern neighbour Edmonton, Calgary was notoriously under-serviced for decades, with few choices available for listeners whose tastes went further than what the handful of heritage stations were willing to play.

Changes started happening in the market just after the millennium, with the addition of two new stations, while another four were launched between 2006 and 2008, and two new licenses were recently awarded and are due to fire up their transmitters soon.

27 signals now fill the Calgary airwaves, with a variety of commercial, non-commercial, campus and ethnic choices on the AM & FM dials. Combine that with the signal spill from stations just outside of the city limits, plus two new licenses that are yet to launch, and Alberta’s largest city has now got some serious competition happening on-air.

— Calgary is the fifth-largest radio market in Canada.
— One of the youngest Metro populations in the country, while also featuring one of the highest median household incomes.
— Country 105 is the top overall music station, while “Classic Hits” is the top combined format, accounting for 17.2% share of PPM 12+ ratings.
— Value of the Radio advertising market estimated at $90-million and growing.
— Over $3-million in CCD funding annually in the market.

As one would expect from a resource-based economy, the city’s population skews young, with 2011 census data showing the median age sitting at 36.4 years, compared to the national median of 40.6 years for Canada as a whole.

For stations targeting young adults, Calgary has a huge pool of potential listeners, with the 25-to-29 age group being the largest cohort in the city, accounting for nearly 94,000 car buying, smartphone using, beer drinking residents.

According to Statistics Canada, the 2010 median total household income was $89,490.00, second only to Ottawa-Gatineau ($94,700.00), and well above the national median of $69,860.00.

As for how much all those young-ish, financially well-off listeners are worth, ie: the overall value of the radio market, according to information detailed during recent CRTC license hearings, Calgary is pegged at approximately $90-million and growing, making each ratings point worth a theoretical $900K.

PPM’s from August 27-November 25, 2012, excluding talk and AM stations:

Station (format) 12+ W25-54 M25-54
Country 105 (Country) 9.4 15.3 7.4
XL103 (Classic Hits) 8.2 8.4 7.1
Lite 95.9 (AC) 6.8 9.7 3.4
Virgin (Top 40) 6.7 10.1 6.8
Q107 (Classic Rock) 6.4 7.2 10.6
CJAY92 (Active Rock) 5.9 4.4 11.7
Jack FM (Classic Hits) 5.0 9.0 5.8
Kool FM (Hot AC) 5.0 8.0 5.5
X92.9 (Alternative Rock) 4.0 3.3 7.2
97.7 UP (Classic Hits) 4.0 3.6 6.8
AMP (Top 40) 3.9 4.9 2.8

— While the station had been a solid performer for decades, with the advent of PPM, heritage outlet Country 105 has seen their numbers steadily increase to where they are now the #1 music station in the city. Only other competitor in the country realm is from AM1060, which programs “Classic” country from Johnny Cash, George Jones, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn to minimal ratings.

— After struggling for years with an underperforming AC/Jazz format, Newcap flipped CIQX-FM to Classic Hits and rebranded it XL103 (CFXL-FM), hoping to invoke the spirit of 1970’s/80’s market leader CKXL-AM. Mornings are hosted by long-time market vets Don & Joanne (formerly at Lite 96), with drive is helmed by another well-known personality with heritage in the market, Don Steele.

— As part of the rebranding in 2010, Rogers renamed Lite 96 to Lite 95.9 and revamped the station’s sound, replacing the traditional AC sound with more up-tempo contemporary material.

— Astral’s rebranding of Vibe to Virgin in 2010 eliminated the urban-based elements of the station and turned it into a mainstream Top 40 outlet, which has since delivered consistent ratings, though there was some erosion this time out on their F25-54 numbers.

— Corus is hoping that Classic Rock Q107’s new PM drive show with Jeff Woods (ex Q107 Toronto) will give a boost to ratings. While the 12+ is flat, they did experience a 2-share increase in F25-54, helping to balance out the male-heavy audience.

— Heritage rocker CJAY92 tops the male demos but, much like Q107 in the past, has had difficulty appealing to female listeners.

— Much like what has been experienced by the similarly-named stations across the country, Jack FM has seen some ratings erosion over the past few years, possibly due to listener fatigue, as well as entry into the market of Classic Hits competitors XL103 and 97.7 UP.

— Originally launched as Energy 101.5, Kool FM fills the Hot AC segment of the dial. With the recent retooling of the morning show (now hosted by Tarzan Dan), Kool FM appears to be making an effort to increase station profile in the market, with an eye to liberating listeners from both Virgin and Lite 95.9.

— Posting lackluster numbers for two-years, Newcap pulled the plug on AAA-rocker Fuel 90.3 (CFUL-FM) and relaunched the signal as Top-40 outlet AMP (CKMP-FM) in 2009, going head-to-head with Vibe (who would soon rebrand to Virgin). Station pulls decent youth numbers but struggles to put adult demos on the board.

— With the demise Fuel 90.3 (CFUL-FM), X92.9 (CFEX-FM) became the only commercial choice on the dial for Alternative listeners, who actively help to determine song flow via the station’s online “On Demand” feature.

— With three rebrandings in as many years, Rawlco appears to have settled on Classic Hits for 97.7 UP, but the station is still bound by the original specialty conditions on the license, making for an odd transition every night as they abruptly switch to folk-music from 9-to-midnight.

For anybody watching radio license hearings over the past decade, there almost appears to be a direct correlation between the amount pledged for Canadian Content Development (CCD) and the successful awarding of a license, with each subsequent successful applicant raising the bar in regards to the total dollar-value of their commitment.

With all of the new stations appearing on the Calgary landscape over the past decade, the city is awash in CCD cash, giving local artists more opportunities to build on their careers. While the various programs have yet to create an act that’s broken nationally, they are all helping to create a more vibrant music scene, nurturing talent that will one day make an impact on a much wider scale.

— For 2012-2013, AMP will be spending $1-million in CCD, with the key focus on their on-going “Rock Star” program, which hands out a grand-prize cheque of $200,000, along with a host of ancillary prizes. The Radio Starmaker fund is also expected to receive $350K

— According to CRTC documentation, Virgin has an annual CCD commitment of $615,000, with more than half that amount earmarked for their “Developing Urban Stars” series, though the current status of that particular initiative is unknown. The station had experience a few matters of non-complience in recent years with how the CCD has been handled, which resulted in the CRTC issuing a short-term license renewal in 2011.

— X92.9’s “Xposure” program costs over $200K a year, which sees three local acts winning $25-grand apiece, as well as being part of the annual “Xposure”CD which gets marketed throughout the city. Other CCD monies breakdown as: $60K earmarked towards music & journalism scholarships, $55K towards Radio Starmaker, $40K to FACTOR and $50K for a CCD coordinator salary.

— Bellmedia’s Kool FM has a commitment for a minimum spending level of $640,000 annually, though most of the money goes towards national-scale initiatives, such as $188K to FACTOR, $118K to Radio Starmaker, $200K to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and $65K for the marketing of Alberta artists during CMW in Toronto.

— Prior to flipping over to “Classic Hits” on 97.7 UP, CIGY-FM (now CHUP-FM) committed to spending $408,000 annually, with $200K going towards Rawlco’s “Project 10K20” talent development program, $50K for the Calgary Folk Festival, $48K for local concert promotion, $50K for an “on-air performance” series, plus $60K for a CCD coordinator salary.

— While not on the air yet, Pattison is expected to launch their new AAA station The Peak sometime inside the next twelve-months, which will then start injecting $8.75-million into CCD programs over the next seven years, including $4.9-million for the “Peak Performance Project”, an initiative which has seen success at Pattison’s Vancouver station.