Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Latest CBC Radio 2 survey data: the "S9 2010" results

Two years have now passed since the CBC completed their restructuring of the CBC Radio 2 programming.

As you may recall, the first phase of the changes to the CBC Radio 2 programming occurred in March 2007. The last survey of the CBC Radio 2 audience listening to the “old” programming conducted by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement was, in the BBM’s terminology, S1 2007. The most recent survey available on the BBMs web site covers the period from July 26 – October 24 2010 and includes data for Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and is based on data compiled using the Portable People Meter, or PPM. Radio audience survey data for Winnipeg and Ottawa is based on data compiled using diary data and so is not available for this period, the last survey period for these markets covering the period March 1 – April 25 2010. I term the period from March 1 – April 25 2010 “S4 2010”, to be consistent with prior survey naming, but it should be noted that the BBM does not use this term.

Anyone interested in the success or failure of the new programming on CBC Radio 2 can therefore compare the current audience for CBC Radio 2 with the audience for the “old” Classical format. Since the goal of the restructuring of the CBC Radio 2 programming was apparently to increase the total audience, we would expect that the CBC Radio 2 audience has increased in the major markets surveyed by the BBM. At the time of the programming changes, the management of the CBC admitted that they were going to alienate many loyal listeners, but contended that they would gain additional listeners and would therefore increase the total audience for CBC Radio 2. So what actually happened?

As readers of previous entries to this blog are no doubt aware, the audience for CBC Radio 2 has plummeted. Changes in the survey methodology from diary data to the PPM data are no doubt one factor, but the decline in the CBC Radio 2 audience was evident even before the changeover to the PPM measurements. The audience has declined 41.4% in Montreal, 39.4% in Toronto, 67.1% in Vancouver, 56.3% in Calgary and 45.2% in Edmonton. This is a decline in market share of almost unheard of proportions. The charts below summarize the results for S9 2010. Note that the last survey for which full market data is available is S4 2010, which included data for Ottawa and Winnipeg.

While it is true that the total radio audience has declined in each of these markets, with the exception of Montreal English broadcasting stations, the decline in Radio 2's audience has been much more dramatic.

Many former listeners of CBC Radio 2 will not be surprised by this. You may recall that listeners protested the changes in most large Canadian cities in April 2008. There was a public outcry when the extent of the CBC’s plans were revealed to the Canadian public. Although the audience was vociferous in their condemnation of the CBC’s plans for the new programming, the CBC management proceeded with the restructuring in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Consider how other corporations have implemented change and how they have reacted when their customers reacted negatively to such change. The most well-known example of a marketing debacle is, of course, the introduction of “New Coke” in the late eighties. For those few who may not know the story: Coke attempted to increase the market share for Coca-Cola by introducing a new formula for Coke that they dubbed “New Coke.” Their customers were outraged. New Coke sales plummeted. Coca-Cola relented and reintroduced “Coke Classic” to placate their customers, offering both “New Coke” and “Coke Classic”. Sales recovered and “New Coke” was quietly retired by an abashed Coca-Cola corporation.

Consider a more recent example. The Gap recently decided to change their logo. Their logo! Customers were outraged and protested. The Gap, having learned something during the past twenty years from other corporate missteps, quickly retreated, admitted their mistake and reinstated their old logo. Note that nothing apparently had changed with respect to the merchandise, shopping experience or pricing. The only thing that was altered was the logo! Yet the management of The Gap was quick to realize that they had made a mistake and recovered from the mistake in order to keep their customers happy.

Not so the management of the CBC. Not only did they ignore the public outcry that greeted the initial announcement of the restructuring of the CBC, but have apparently been oblivious to the declining audience of CBC Radio 2, judging by the lack of public statements to their shareholders, the taxpayers of Canada.

You can’t get away with stuff like this if you are a company operating in a competitive environment. If you’re a corporation that lives off the public purse, apparently you can.


Anonymous said...

May I recommend Radio New Zealand Concert channel (online) as a place where classical-music lovers can turn to?

Excellent programming, relatively little announcing - a truly professional station - much the way that Radio 2 used to be.

And New Zealand Radio National is a Radio 1 channel but much better...

Happy listening....outside of Canada

James Wooten said...

I absolutely agree with you. Radio New Zealand and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are two of my favourites. We listen to them using our WiFi radio, which is invaluable for lovers of classical music.

(Sorry for the delay in publishing your comment. I only read just now!)