Rob Farina on Astral’s radio plans for 2013

The media co's EVP of content and platform talks ad sales, digital growth and bringing Humble and Fred back to the airwaves.

Astral Media is bringing comedy duo Humble and Fred to its radio airwaves, a move that Rob Farina, EVP content and platforms, Astral Media, tells MiC is a key part of the media co’s larger 2013 plans.

The duo is best known for their morning show in Toronto which debuted on 102.1 The Edge in 1989. They worked separately for years, but recently reunited for daily podcasts which are available through iTunes and online at

Farina says Astral will expand its network of all-comedy stations, which launched in 2012 with Funny 820 in Hamilton and Funny 1410 in London, to new markets by working with comedy clubs, and soliciting and developing new content.

He adds that, in the long-term, Astral sees its radio services evolving through investments in two distinct paths: its linear, realtime service and its on-demand music platform, which includes the digital assets for Virgin and NRJ stations.

To this end, the media co will invest in stations that are currently underperforming to help them reach their ratings goals. In addition, Astral is looking to grow its on-demand service into a multimedia platform by investing more in exclusive content and video.

“We know that the [digital] market is going to be more competitive with more options for consumers. The work we’ve been doing at Astral is really to embrace that and make sure we have a place on people’s dashboards with a digital offering that’s going to be compelling to consumers,” says Farina.

He adds that the expansion of Astral’s digital offerings will allow it to provide consumers with a better mix of local and national content that people can customize for their needs on multiple platforms.

“For [the development of] radio, a lot of it is being focused on how our signal is going to be received. More people are going to digital platforms to listen to the radio. The tablet or the desktop has become the appliance of choice for radio listening,” he explains, noting that the streaming numbers, though only a small proportion of Astral’s total radio audience, is rapidly growing.

The shift to digital will also offer the media co new vehicles to lure advertisers. Attracting ad dollars has proven to be one of the greatest challenges for the radio industry due to the unpredictability of the ad market, but Farina says that the industry is moving in the right direction.

“One of the things we’re now doing better as an industry is selling the strength of radio more effectively to our advertisers,” he explains.

“Where we’ve got our eye on growth, is in coming up with non-traditional revenue-generating opportunities, whether they be live events, customized promotions, or a variety of things outside of the traditional 30- and 60-second spots,” he says, adding that partnerships with the stations brands, including Humble and Fred, will also be key to the growth of Astral’s radio product.

The Humble and Fred Show debuts weeknights, starting Jan 21, on Astral’s all-comedy networks in Hamilton and London, as well as Newstalk 1010 CFRB.