The 6 Best Performing Radio Formats in Canada

Now that summer is over we took a look at how radio formats are performing in the five largest Canadian markets. We looked at the Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal markets, and studied the performance of each of the formats from the most recent 2015 summer survey period. We used the previous two summer books as a point of comparison and averaged the share of those stations in each format. In all cases we used Numeris PPM data Monday to Sunday 2am – 2am All people 2+ Share %. You may be surprised to learn which Canadian cities have the stations with the largest audience shares.

The most popular format in Canada is News with an average share of 8.8%. News formats do better when there are elections on or when major events happen in Canada or the world and we seem to have had our share of major stories over this past summer. When the election is over and perhaps things return to “normal” it will be interesting to see how news holds up. However, the format is a consistent winner and has been the most popular format in these 5 markets for the past three summers, or longer. Last summer it slipped to a 7.7% average share, but that was a “slow” summer for major stories as I recall. The previous summer, news averaged an 8.1% share. CJAD in Montreal is not only the News station with the largest audience share (28.1%), it also boasts the largest audience share of any format across these five markets.


The second most popular format is Hot AC and has a 7.9% average share across these five markets. There are 10 stations listed as playing Hot AC but the format has slipped almost a full percentage point from the summer of 2013, which is a concern. Calgary appears to be the most competitive Hot AC market in the country with three stations all claiming to own this format hill. But the station to check out in this format is in Montreal. It’s Cogeco’s 92.5 The Beat which has an almost exclusively female talent lineup, and boasts a 17.7% share. This is down slightly, by the way, from an 18.9% two summers ago.

Hot AC

The format that is growing the most in Canada is Classic Hits and is tied for 3rd place with a 6.0% average share. It has grown from a 5.2% in the summer of 2013. Both Edmonton and Vancouver have three stations in this format. XL 103 in Calgary is the big format winner up from a 7.6% to a 10.5% this summer. The Newcap owned Boom 97.3 has also made some solid gains in Toronto.


Country, with only five stations in the format, and one of them not really located in Toronto, is the other format that is tied for 3rd place, also with a 6.0% average share. This format has slipped a little from a 6.6% in the summer of 2013. The big performer in this format is CKRY in Calgary that boasts a 10.9% share.


In fourth place is the Adult contemporary format with only five stations listed as playing AC in these markets. This format has an average audience share of 5.0%., which is down from a 5.7% in the summer of 2013. This format is challenged because it is no longer definable by a few core artists. The format has become a title driven format and has to share lots of titles with Hot AC and even CHR. QM in Vancouver is the station that is performing the best in this format based on audience share. It has an 11.4% share which is their best result in the last 3 years.

Rock is the most popular format with 15 stations listed as playing Rock in these five cities. The format slides into 5th spot with a 4.8% average share. Rock is a format that also has its challenges because the new rock sound does not mesh well with the older classic rock songs. Programmers need to be careful not to play too many new and unfamiliar titles, or to fall into the trap of sounding old and boring by filling so many slots in the hour with potentially tired and burnt old rock songs. The stations that are performing the best are doing lots of music testing to ensure they are playing the best of the best songs for the target audience. Rock slipped from a 5.4% in summer 2013 to a 4.9% in summer of 2014, and this past summer saw another small drop. “The Spirit of Rock,” the Bell owned CHOM in Montreal, is the station that performs best in this format with a 12.2% audience share.

Rounding out the top 6 best performing formats with 12 stations is CHR. It has a 4.1 % average share which is down slightly from a 4.4% two summers ago. This format seems to share lots of titles and artists with Hot AC on one slide and Urban and even some rock on the other end of the format. The best performing CHR station is 94.5 Virgin Radio in Vancouver with a 6.8% average share. While this looks good it is well down from the 9.2% this station returned when it was positioned as The Beat.

Averaging audience shares in just one way of measuring the performance of formats, and we get that each market has its differences. There are many factors that determine a radio stations success. We strongly believe radio stations win because they are great 365 days of the year. They focus on five key elements and get of them right all of the time.