UPDATE: A knowledgeable source in the broadcast industry recently forwarded detailed rating data which should help BMInt readers understand how classical listeners are reacting to the WGBH changes.
The anomalous gain the in the March WGBH’s ratings referred to in the article below was apparently due to listeners’ deserting WBUR during its fund-raising period and migrating to WGBH. Those listeners returned to WBUR thereafter and WGBH’s rating consequently dropped. On the matter of WGBH’s longer-term flatness in the cumulative ratings (PPM Reports), the “cumes” concealed the fact that the within the period when WGBH formerly ran classical music there has been a significant decline in audience. The so-called AQH Persons rating which looks at 15-minute intervals throughout the day shows that during the 10:00 am to 3:00 pm period the average number of listeners to WGBH dropped from 3,700 in November (when classical music was offered) to 2,100 in April for the all-talk format which obtains now. That represents a 44% decline. And those listeners are not all going to WCRB which is in a 20% decline for the same time period. According to the source they appear simply to have simply decamped.
Between March and April WGBH radio lost one third of its average daily listeners according to Arbitron PPM reports. The loss was from 64,803 to 43,202. This might simply have been because the March figures were anomalously inflated, but without being privy to the detailed numbers showing audiences by the day and hour, which WGBH steadfastly refuses to share with BMInt’s readers, we cannot but speculate. The longer term picture is no prettier for WGBH. Before the November changes WGBH’s share of the Boston market stood at 1%. Now at the end of April it remains stuck at 1% even though the worthies on the station’s board funneled tens of millions of dollars to increase the station’s share of the Boston audience.
To some extent the situation at all-classical WCRB should be even more worrisome to management. There, according to Arbitron, the station has lost 21% of its listeners since November. That’s a staggering drop of an average of 26,000 listeners per day, and proof that the merits of the WGBH classical format were lost on the former WCRB listeners. Before the changes, and despite its much weaker signal, WCRB had nearly three times the listeners of WGBH. Now the ratio is two to one. At the current rate of decline WCRB will forfeit another 30,000 listeners and be in a tie with WGBH for 23rd place after another 18 months
Over at WBUR, there is likely poorly veiled Schadenfreude because WGBH’s imitative strategy does not appear to be working. The WBUR audience has shown no diminution from WGBH’s challenge—in fact, its share remains stubbornly higher than the combined audiences of WGBH and WCRB.
BMInt has once again asked WGBH spokesman, Lucy Sholley, for her comments on this news. And we also ask our readers: How can WGBH and WCRB induce Boston classical music aficionados to return as radio listeners?
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