December ice storm and blackout in Toronto boosts radio/TV ratings

On The Kowch Blog looks at how the blackout boosted ratingsFrom where I sit On The Kowch, I find it amazing how PPM technology today allows TV and radio stations to zoom in on how ratings were impacted on a certain day because of a major event. Take the December, 2013 ice storm and blackout in the Greater Toronto Area.

Bell Media’s new Cross Media Research Team looked at the PPM ratings between December 20 and 22nd to figure out how GTA residents consumed media on those two days. With new Personal People Meters (little electronic receivers people wear that records what  radio or TV stations they have tuned to) researchers were able to pinpoint where residents turned for news on the ice storm and subsequent loss of electricity for 300,000 homes.

For Toronto’s news and talk radio stations, ratings almost doubled for that non-music radio format when compared to ratings prior to the blackout caused by the ice storm.

Breakdown of ratings during Toronto ice storm and blackout

Graphic shows how blackout boosted radio and TV ratings in Toronto

Orange bar represents average ratings between Dec. 16 and Jan 12
Yellow bar represents ice storm Dec. 20-22
White bar represents blackout on Dec. 22

Bell Media 2014 Spring PPM ratings webinar looks at impact of Toronto blackout on the ratings

Bell Media 2014 Spring PPM ratings webinar hosts Alicia-Olson Keating and Mike Mohammed

The graph illustrates new Cross Media data by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurements (BBM) that conducts PPM ratings in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

“This is a combined radio and television data base that looks at audience delivery in the PPM markets,” says Alicia-Olsen Keating, senior director of the Cross Media Research Team at Bell Media.

“This is a very exciting breakthrough in Canada with other countries certain to follow our lead. We are now able  to look at radio and television synergies and see how these two mediums work together to reach consumers throughout the week.”

She made her comments at the beginning of Bell Media’s video webinar announcing results of the 13-week Spring 2014 ratings held between February 25 and May 25.

From where I sit On the Kowch, it is no surprise that during blackouts, people tune away from music radio to listen to the news and talk radio formatted stations for information. You can listen to radio in the dark but when they do, people want information, not music to keep them company in a blackout. That is why the news and talk format went from the medium of 100 prior to the blackout to 183 when the power went out.

For the first time in years the spread between Toronto’s Newstalk 1010 CFRB and all news 680News in the Adults 12+ demographics was less than half a share point. CFRB in the Spring 2014 rating period had a 6.0 share compared to 680’s 6.4 share. People may want news, but they also want to listen to talk radio to find out if others are just as upset and shivering in the cold as they are.

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media.