Sunday, April 5, 2009

Two years later - have the CBC Radio Two changes been a success?

As I mentioned in my March 30 blog entry, it has now been two years since the CBC initiated its program of Radio 2 restructuring.

Phase I of the restructuring began March 17, 2009 with the cancellation of the "World at Six" news broadcast, the replacement of "Music for a while" with "Tonic", the replacement of "In Performance" with "Canada Live", the cancellation of "Two New Hours" and the introduction of "The Signal", the cancellation of "Brave New Waves" and the cancellation of "Northern Lights". Phase III was completed in September 2008 with the cancellation of "Here's to You", "Studio Sparks" and "Sound Advice" and the replacement of "Disc Drive" with "Radio 2 Drive" and "Music and Company" with "Radio 2 Morning". So, you may be wondering, has it all been worth the pain and agony that the CBC has inflicted upon its audience? Has the new programming been successful?

To answer this question I continued the analysis of CBC Radio Two's market share that I first did in my October 30 2008 blog entry using audience share data from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement. Since we now have market share data including the period Sept. 1 2008 - Oct. 26 2008 (S4 2008, in BBM's terminology) and Jan. 5 2009 - March 1 2009 (S1 2009), we can compare CBC Radio Two's market share before the changes were implemented; i.e. before Phase I of the restructuring was implemented and the market share after the changes were implemented; i.e. after Phase III was completed. Since we have data for S4 2008 and S1 2009 we can get a good picture of how CBC Radio Two's market share has changed as this represents seven months of elapsed time since the completion of Phase III.

Much to my surprise, I found from the BBM data that radio listenership has actually increased in the major cities surveyed by the BBM, increasing from 20.7M in S1 2007 to 21.4M in S1 2009, an increase of 3.3%! In an era of MP3 players, internet radio and ubiquitous CD players this should be considered nothing short of astounding. It seems that there is a place for good old broadcast radio in our era of new technology after all!

But what about CBC Radio Two? How has it fared? Well, not as well. In a period of increased radio listenership CBC Radio Two actually lost listeners, losing a total of 49,000 listeners, or 6.9%, during the period from S1 2007 to S1 2009. As anyone with a lick of sense will tell you, to lose listeners in a growing market is very bad indeed, especially if you are trying to become more relevant to your audience, as the CBC apparently is trying to do. The chart below summarizes CBC Radio Two's market share during the period S1 2007 to S1 2009, as well as the total radio listenership in the major markets surveyed by the BBM. You can check this data for yourself using the BBM Top-Line Reports at the BBM web site.

The CBC has responded to reports of declining market share for CBC Radio Two in the past by saying that CBC Radio Two "needs to find its audience". One would think that if the "new 2" hasn't found its audience six months after its launch, it's never going to find it.

Most public corporations have a predictable response to a failed strategy. Either they admit their mistake and revise the strategy, or management is replaced or the corporation fails. The management of CBC Radio - answering to no one, apparently - has the luxury of being able to continue on their merry way to self-destruction, oblivious to declining market share and the ire of their audience. (For radio, that is, television is another story, as recent events have borne witness.)