Fresh Listen: Happy Birthday, Bob FM

99.9 BobFM Bob FM CFWM WinnipegWhen CFWM (99.9 Bob FM) Winnipeg debuted just over 15 years ago, (on March 4, 2002):

Classic Rock was still focused on its first generation of artists, and considered the Boston-to-Bon-Jovi era to be a secondary trifle, at best. Pushing into the ‘90s wasn’t even a consideration; those songs were still recent gold for Alternative and Active Rock radio.

Oldies radio had not renamed itself Classic Hits and was still grappling with how to push further into the ‘70s.

The ‘80s were just another era for Mainstream AC radio, which still went back to the ‘60s and ‘70s without issues.

The ‘80s had just been discredited as a separate format by the fast-burning all-‘80s stations, but they were still a center lane for “’80s, ‘90s, and Now” Hot ACs.

The Adult Hits boom that Bob FM fostered—within a year in Canada, after about three years in the United States—would alter the format landscape significantly. The ‘80s have become the center lane for Classic Hits and a renewed focus for Mainstream AC, forcing Hot AC closer to Mainstream CHR.

In the fall book, CFWM—the original Adult Hits “Bob FM”—was off 6.8-5.7. Classic Hits CHIQ (The Drive) which was once co-owned with Bob, has moved on to similar turf and was up 4.1-5.5. Classic Rock CITI leads both, but is off 8.7-6.5.

The relationship between Adult Hits and Classic Hits seems similarly muddied across the broader format landscape. KCBS-FM Los Angeles, one of the most-watched Jack-FM success stories in the mid-‘00s, has a respectable 3.3 share, but sister KRTH (K-Earth 101) is playing much of the music that initially powered Jack, and is second in the market, up 4.3-4.9 in the February PPM monthlies.

And yet:

When CBS Radio, a broadcaster comfortable with both formats, chose between holes for either format in the Houston market, it ended up in Adult Hits. The resulting KKHH (The Spot) is up 3.1 – 3.5 – 4.6 over the last two months.

In Austin, KBPA (Bob FM) remains dominant, up 7.7-8.8 in January. (Its February numbers are being released today.) Adult Hits also topped the market in both Nashville and Indianapolis last month. No full-signal attempt at Classic Hits has been made in those markets; an Austin station that tried it on a lesser signal has since segued to Adult Hits itself as “The Bat.”

Bob Winnipeg’s original PD, Howard Kroeger, remains involved with the format via the version syndicated in the U.S. by Envision Networks. Even with a mature format, WASJ (105.1 Bob FM) Panama City, a nine-year affiliate, has gone 5.5-7.8-7.6 over the last three books, making it third in the market during the fall. During the Bob- and Jack-FM boom, programmers scrambled to copy its formula to other formats, but Kroeger’s Classic Country version, Duke- and Hank-FM, is on its own recent growth spurt.

And the landscape continues to shift. After handing off the ‘70s to Classic Hits, Mainstream AC is starting to view even the ‘80s as spice. For many stations, the debate has become whether to play two an hour or three an hour. The all-‘80s format, a punchline at the time of Winnipeg’s launch, has resurfaced in San Francisco, Albuquerque, and this week in Richmond, VA.

We took a Fresh Listen to Winnipeg this week. The original Bob-FM was never the jockless, all-music machine that many of its American acolytes became, but it actually has a higher-profile afternoon show now that (like several similar Canadian stations) invites listeners to “join the conversation” on various phone topics. (Yesterday, it was “do you leave a tip for take-out orders”?)

The original off-kilter stationality of the format endures. A sweeper in Winnipeg encourages listeners to “text Bob with requests and questionable emojis.” Sweepers on the syndicated Bob promise to take the audience back to a simpler time “when you could buy a toothbrush without six hours of research.” Another one declares, “All websites are dating sites—if you believe in yourself.”

Here’s the original 99.9 Bob FM just before 2 p.m. on March 22:

  • Barney Bentall, “Do Ya” (great bubble-grunge Canadian pop rock from ‘95)
  • Bon Jovi, “Wanted Dead or Alive”
  • Joe Jackson, “Is She Really Going Out With Him”
  • Green Day, “Time Of Your Life (Good Riddance)”
  • Tragically Hip, “New Orleans Is Sinking” (Canadian)
  • Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”
  • Wings, “Live and Let Die”
  • Def Leppard, “Love Bites”
  • Knack, “My Sharona”
  • Tom Cochrane, “Sinking Like A Sunset” (Canadian, follow-up to “Life Is A Highway”)
  • Collective Soul, “The World I Know”
  • Honeymoon Suite, “Feel It Again” (Canadian)
  • Dead Or Alive, “You Spin Me Round”
  • Toronto, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” (Canadian, Pat Benatar-ish pop/rock from ’82)

And here’s Envision’s syndicated Bob in the 2 p.m. hour:

  • Prince, “Kiss”
  • Adele, “Set Fire to the Rain”
  • Boston, “More Than A Feeling”
  • Glenn Frey, “The Heat Is On”
  • Seal, “Crazy”
  • Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Maroon 5, “Harder to Breathe”
  • Madness, “Our House”
  • Foreigner, “Head Games”
  • Cardigans, “Lovefool”
  • Free, “All Right Now”
  • Talk Talk, “It’s My Life”

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