With Audacy filing for bankruptcy, to restructure themselves, could we see other companies just exit radio all together?
In the last couple of years we have seen Bell Media in Canada shutting down some AM stations as well as selling 3 others. To be fair a few stations didn’t shut down until 2023 but had blown out previous sports formats and replaced them with comedy formats, or in the case of the station in Hamilton, it became Bloomberg radio. It was announced as well that they were selling the 2 AM stations in Hamilton and 1 in Windsor. It was rumoured at that time that Bell was looking to sell close to 50 stations across the country. Most likely in smaller markets such as Victoria, Fort Saint John, Brandon and more. I would assume stations in major markets would be safe especially in Toronto.
But what would that mean for the company as a whole? It would mean a lot of changes because currently a lot of programming on certain stations originate in places like Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton. I am sure it would mean that the Virgin, Move, Bounce and Pure brands would shrink. Those brands as well as Énergie Boom, and Rouge in Quebec, are in many cities across Canada.
Bell Media currently owns over 100 radio stations across Canada, including most of Canada’s largest radio markets. The company’s programming is distributed to other stations across Canada via its syndication division, Orbyt Media. If Bell sells off 50 or so stations, it will affect programming. For instance Ashleigh Darrach, is heard on HTZ-FM St Catherines/Niagara Falls and on CJAY 92 Calgary. My assumption if Bell is seriously considering selling stations, that one of those 2 stations would be a part of the sale. Meaning that Ashleigh could be based out of the station sold. If thats the case, she most likely won’t be heard on the other station. Would Bell fill the position? Or leave it as a vacant position, with no host at all?
Another instance is Virgin syndicates the morning show in Kitchener and London. Some of the hosts from Toronto are on air at other Virgin properties. Bounce and Move have regional midday shows. Based on the list of stations Bell owns you have to think some of these stations are going to be sold. Meaning that new owners will have a lot of decisions to make in terms of programming. Also it might mean a lot of new jobs, at some of the possibly former Bell stations.
Another company I am keeping my eye on in Canada is Corus. In December 2022, the management decided to lay off a couple of the staff at Q107 Calgary, in order to prepare for a format change. Well they basically moved the AM talk station QR77 to FM and changed it to QR Calgary. It was rumoured the most recent format change in Winnipeg was going to be the same thing. In September they let go on the local on air staff, and removed the one announcer who was from Ottawa (she is still with the company). Peggy played the normal playlist until they went to an all Christmas format before Launching Country 99 on December 27. The new station only uses on air staff from Corus’s existing country stations. Midday host MJ is on the 2 Alberta and 1 London country station as well as Winnipeg now, Morning show co-host in Calgary Gregg Reynolds is afternoon show host at Country 99. Afternoon show host Ethan VanVaals, at CISN Edmonton is morning show host at Country 99. So no local talent, no new jobs for the new station. Also a lot of Corus stations seem to have holes in the schedules on the websites. Usually a missing midday show and some with no advertised afternoon show.
Corus stock is sinking lower and lower and it would not surprise me that there are big changes coming to the company. Rumors have swirled for years about Edge in Toronto possibly changing format but I would expect a sale before a format change. But would Corus give up one or more Toronto stations? I don’t think they would but stranger things have happened. This could be a very interesting year in radio especially in Canada.
Let’s see what happens. But I do expect a lot of sales to be announced in the next while as well as format changes, layoffs and hirings as new companies staff up their new stations.