Our semi-regular series of market explorations continues this month with a look at Halifax, the largest population centre in the Maritimes and the 13th largest radio market in Canada, with 10 commercial stations that, according to the CRTC’s 2012 Statistical and Financial Summaries report, generate $21.7-million in revenue

Perhaps one of the more unique pieces of radio trivia about Halifax is that since 2009, all 22 of the commercial, non-commercial and campus signals servicing the region broadcast on the FM band only. While AM is still an active and ongoing concern elsewhere across the country, the wholesale migration away from AM in Halifax may be the the way of the future elsewhere, especially in light of the increasing operational and maintenance costs associated with keeping aging AM transmitters on the air.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Since amalgamation in 1996, the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) describes the region encompassing both Halifax and Dartmouth, the town of Bedford and the surrounding County of Halifax, though the local government has recently approved a new branding strategy that will see the HRM name being dropped in the future, at which time the region then to be known simply as Halifax.

The 2011 Census figures peg the metro population at 297,943, while the HRM was 390,096, with a gender split of 51.7% female, 48.3% male.

The median age in the HRM is 39.9-years, marginally lower that the national median of 40.6-years and quite a bit lower than the median for Nova Scotia as a whole, at 43.7-years.

Looking more closely at how the age cohorts break out:

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As the major economic centre in the Atlantic region, it should come as no surprise that there’s money to be made in the HRM, with the 2011 median total household income calculated at $78,690, compared to the national median of $72,240.

RATINGS

Still measured by diary, Halifax PD’s & GSM’s get their numbers twice yearly, with the Spring 2014 book set to land in their hot little hands May 29th. Here’s a look at some of the long-term trending that’s been happening in market (all numbers 12+):

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Elsewhere up and down the dial, there are a variety of other non-commercial outlets that draw listeners:

CKDU 88.1 FM – Campus radio from Dalhousie University
Premiere Chaine 92.3 FM – part of the Ici Radio-Canada Premiere network
CJLU 93.9 FM – Religious programming
Life 94.7 FM – Contemporary Christian Music
Radio Halifax Metro 98.5 FM — Community radio targeting Acadian and Francophone population
Hilltop FM 99.3 FM – Christian radio
105.9 Seaside FM – Community radio
CHCN 106.9 FM – Community radio
CIRH 107.7 FM – Tourist & travel information

STATION SNAPSHOTS

— A couple factors to consider when pondering why country outlet FX 101.9 is a ratings-winner in the HRM. First, country music has strong female appeal, something to consider in a market that has more women than men. Second, while the format may not typically score well with urban audiences, about 1/4 of the HRM’s population resides outside of the metro area and may appreciate that the music speaks to their lifestyle.

— Launched as an ‘easy listening’ station back in 1977, C-100 has undergone a number of format changes over the decades, with the last being to Hot AC about 10-years ago. With the demise of Lite 92.9, it’s probably safe to say that C-100 has become the defacto ‘listen at work’ station for offices throughout the region.

— Loudly proclaiming to be “The Home of Rock n Roll”, Newcap’s Q104 pounds out 100,000 watts of classic & active rock and receives double-digit ratings for the effort.

— When Newcap abandoned Classic Hits and flipped CKUL to AAA, Maritime Broadcasting Systems saw an opportunity to quickly increase their market share by pulling the plug on the languishing Classic Rocker 89.9 Hal FM and going Classic Hits with 89.9 The Wave. The gamble looks like it was worth the effort, with The Wave claiming an 8.6 in the Fall 2013 book, up dramatically from the 1.9 Hal FM registered in the spring.

— With a heritage dating back to 1944, CJCH has gone through various ownership and format changes before arriving at its current incarnation of The Bounce, now a part of Bell Media. The move from AM to FM in 2008 provided the ideal opportunity to jump from “Oldies” to CHR, a move that has paid off with consistent, if not spectacular, ratings.

— As the only AC in town, Rogers Lite 92.9 was a solid mid-pack station ratings-wise, but with CKUL leaving the Classic Hits crowd to 89.9 The Wave, it makes sense that Rogers would’ve wanted to muscle in on the game with their nationally-known Jack FM brand, which is exactly what they did in February. From the company perspective, it makes sense operationally, as Jack FM requires minimal staffing (helping boost bottom-line revenues) plus the format has the potential to appeal to a wider audience than what Lite 92.9 could reach.

— Rolling a news-wheel during drive times, News 95.7 then fills out the day with talks shows and sport programming (like Blue Jays baseball and Halifax Moosehead hockey). Much like the other Rogers “News”-branded properties across the country, the station will never be a ratings leader, but draws solid cume numbers, which is something that the sales department can readily sell.

Live 105 hit the airwaves October 1, 2010 as the Maritimes first Modern Rock outlet. With a license condition of 10% “Category 3” music, the station cleverly fulfills it by programming Contemporary Christian Rock into the mix, with tracks by Flyleaf, 12 Stones, Thousand Foot Krutch, Firelight, P.O.D., Pillar, Sumerlin and others, all featuring a sound indistinguishable from the mainstream material on their playlist.

— Newcap rolled out Radio 96.5 August 26th, 2013, replacing the classic hits that’d been a mainstay on Kool 96.5 with a AAA-leaning Alternative / Hot AC hybrid that appears to be stepping a bit onto Live 105’s toes. Comparing playlists, the two share a sizable universe, but where Live 105 would play USS, Young The Giant and Queens of the Stone Age, Radio 96.5 goes with Ray Lamontagne, Broken Bells and Phillip Phillips.

— For about six years, the CHR battle in Halifax pitted Bounce head-to-head against Z103.5, which was re-branded in early-2012 to Energy 103.5. Resigned to the fact that they were unable to make headway in the ratings, Energy 103.5 transitioned to Hot AC earlier this year.