Are Canadian Programmers Missing an Opportunity?

In the past year or so a number of Canadian stations have blown up successful A/C brands and moved to another format. The most obvious example would be Astral blowing up CJEZ in Toronto. This allowed CHFI as the only station playing AC in Toronto to sprint ahead in the ratings (CHFI is #1 with a 12.4% of the 12+ market).  While Boom as an oldies station is doing well and makes it into the top 5 in Canada’s largest city it is still well behind CHFI, especially when you look at cume. CHFI has over 5 million listeners per week while Boom has just over 1.6 million.

But to the South AC stations are performing well. The latest PPM numbers has WLTW in New York well ahead of the bunch with a 7.6% which is up from the previous book at 7.1%. WLTW, which is known as 106.7  Lite FM, has always performed well in a wide range of demos, and currently is #1 18-49, 25-54 and 36-64.  In Chicago WTMX (101.9 The Mix) is back in the top 5 and #1 adults 25-54. PD Mary Ellen Kachinske has more tempo in her music, but like the other top performing AC’s she plays very few currents and relies on the familiarity of re-currents. In Los Angeles AC leader KOST is #3 while sister station KISS is leading the pack no doubt helped by the Ryan Seacrest factor.

Here is the 6pm hour of WLTW New York from Monday

Madonna                    Like a Prayer                      1989

Five for Fighting          100 Years                          2003

Survivor                     Eye of the Tiger                 1982

Katy Perry                  Firework                           2010

Prince                       When Doves Cry                 1984

Lady Gaga                  Paparazzi                          2008

James Taylor              Fire & Rain                  1968

Faith Hill                     Breathe                           1999

Corey Hart                 Sunglasses at Night            1984

Usher/Pitbull               DJ got us falling in love      2010

Eurythmics                 Sweet Dreams                   1983

Nickleback                 How you Remind me          2001

This is an upbeat AC that plays virtually no currents, and leans heavily on re-currents for the familiarity. The gold is mainly 80’s and 90’s (but only one 90’s showed up in this hour). Once an hour they will play a 70’s or even a 60’s and in this hour WLTW played a sleepy James Taylor song. You might question how they could transition between the upbeat Lady Gaga title to “Fire and Rain” which would have been a large shift in both tempo and era but they seem to get away with it.

AC is still a very valid format in Canada, but perhaps it is the programmers who are tired of the format and feel it has passed it’s time. I for one do not feel that way and while the format has become more of a title driven format and there are fewer core artists, AC continues to perform provided it is well programmed, well researched and the key players in the station understand how to put it all together. AC today is a very different beast that it was even 5 years ago and those stations who fail to evolve the format will likely pay the price as the audience ages and they are painted into the soft and sleepy corner of the format spectrum. In three of the largest USA markets AC is performing very nicely thank you. So before you consider blowing up your AC station, you might want to take a closer look at why these stations are successful.