Corus broadens scope with revamped Edmonton morning show

With two well-known Edmonton figures taking the mic, program director Syd Smith says this is an opportunity to shake things up.
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Some radio shows are built around personalities.

News is news and music is music, says Syd Smith, program director for Corus’ 630 CHED. But, he says, the persona and brand of the host can – and should – influence the structure of the show, including the segments and the demographic appeal.

When morning host Bruce Bowie was in the host chair, for example, Smith says the show had “more of a news-wheel feel.” It was feature-heavy, more to-the-point and less focused on conversation.

But now, with Bowie having retired after nearly five decades on the Alberta airwaves, Smith says it’s time to take a chance not only on new hosts, but also on a new style.

Chelsea Bird and Shaye Graham (pictured) are taking the helm as co-hosts. Smith says he sees this as an opportunity to change things up.

“We’re definitely going to tweak things in terms of both the formatting and the general [scheduling] of the show,” he says. “We want to really open up the morning show and give it more conversation.”

He says with Corus having launched News Radio 880 in the market last year, it’s helped Edmontonians become accustomed to another station being their destination for news. That will help with the transition, he says, as Bird and Graham will likely shift CHED’s morning show into a more feature-heavy and banter-focused program, while News Radio 880 helps Corus keep a foothold on “the audience who’s looking for that more newsy content.”

It helps that both Bird and Graham are well-known in the Edmonton market. Graham has previously been a television personality, starring in Global’s local morning TV show for more than 20 years. Bird also has a history in radio broadcasting in various markets, but she gained national attention last year when she competed on Big Brother Canada. Having just lost her previous radio hosting job at Bell Media due to a restructuring, Smith says Bird was looking for a new gig on the other side of her reality TV venture.

“They’re very well thought of within the community,” says Smith, which he says will hopefully expand into the “community” feel of the show.

He says CHED has had a relatively easy go in terms of audience shares. It has alternated between first and second overall in the market for audience shares 12+. As of the most recent Numeris PPM report, it’s currently tied for second place in the market overall, with a 7.4% share overall. It’s strongest with men 25 to 54, with whom it holds a 6% share, although it lags slightly with women at a 1.9% share. He says bringing in a pair of new hosts gives the station a chance to spread out with all the key demographics.

“Our current numbers might have something to do with our sports topics or some of the talks we do. The overall goal to stay present and talk in a way that is relevant, informative and entertaining, whether someone is 30-years-old or 60-years-old, will always be there.”

While he says the broadcaster has a lot of respect for its existing audience, “we do want to replenish and refresh what we do, and grow with these personalities.”

“A lot of radio stations are very narrowly focused on a tight demo. We want to broaden out a bit.”