Soft rock, today’s big hits, talk radio, all-day sports, golden oldies… AM/FM radio offers many familiar formats of curated music, local news, traffic, weather, variety and sports. It is available nearly anywhere and is a great way to discover new music. AM/FM radio aims to keep listeners up to date on what’s going on in their city, region and community, and is an important resource for urgent or emergency information, like weather alerts. In total, there are more than 1,100 radio stations licensed to broadcast from terrestrial towers across Canada. The number of radio stations available to listeners is limited by the number of frequencies available in a geographic market, which in Canada’s largest markets is near capacity.
Advertising-based business model. Since their services are broadcast free over-the-air, private radio broadcasters depend almost exclusively on advertising, in particular local business advertising. This advertising model has been successful, with the payoff for advertisers being access to a local audience and the convenient fact that listeners can’t easily skip advertising on AM/FM radio.
Consolidation to maintain profitability. A key business strategy to help defray costs in a mature business has been consolidation. Canada’s six largest private radio broadcasters account for 65% of private commercial radio revenues.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is a public service. Canada’s national public broadcaster is a distinctive source of news, information and cultural content with a presence in the daily lives of millions of Canadians. The CBC provides local, national and international content to Canadians and, since it is publicly funded, it is available to listeners ad-free.
Traditional meets digital. Radio is extending its reach to the internet and across all devices to stay ubiquitous and generate online advertising revenue. Stations simulcast online via their own websites, through aggregators like iHeartRadio and RadioPlayer Canada and on apps for smartphones and tablets; they are also now integrated with smart speakers (e.g. Amazon Alexa, Google Home). There is some limited experimentation with HD Radio technology. Broadcasters are pushing to ensure FM chips are activated in smartphones—a feature that turns a mobile phone into a traditional radio set without using mobile data.