Blake Carter and Peter Kash's local morning show is returning to the hip-hop radio station
Hip-hop radio station FLOW 93-5 is bringing back a local morning show after a brief fling with The Breakfast Club.
The station originally decided to program the wildly popular New York-based morning show to boost ratings back in March. When coronavirus lockdown measures hit, execs pushed the debut to May. But Toronto listeners haven’t warmed to the change.
Local hosts Blake Carter and Peter Kash, who were bumped to the drive-home time slot, will now return to mornings starting on October 14.
Steve Parsons, general manager of FLOW’s parent company Stingray, says the programming change happened at “the exact wrong time.”
The pandemic, the police killing of George Floyd and the U.S. election saw The Breakfast Club shift from pop culture and entertainment to focus more heavily on American politics.
“It didn’t match up with the culture of Toronto so we decided to make the change,” Parsons explains. “A couple days ago they were talking for 40 minutes about how to vote in Florida as an ex-felon. It’s not relevant to Toronto.”
“The show itself is still a killer show,” he adds. “All three hosts are unbelievable class acts and incredible entertainers – for the U.S.”
Parsons expected a dip in ratings, as is normal when a station swaps morning shows. But the audience didn’t bounce back, he says.
“In this particular case, we didn’t have time to be patient. We needed to get our local show back on,” he explains.
Hosted by DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne tha God, The Breakfast Club is a syndicated morning show with eight million monthly listeners. It regularly brings on high-profile guests, sometimes creating water-cooler moments.
In May, the show became a flashpoint in the U.S. election campaign when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told Charlamagne that undecided Black voters who “have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
Biden later apologized for the remark.
On October 9, the Breakfast Club addressed FLOW’s decision with a dismayed Toronto caller.
“Y’all need a local morning show in Toronto,” Charlamagne said, adding that Canadians can still stream the show online. “That’s what the internet is for, sir.”
Fans and industry voices alike criticized FLOW for the programming change back in the spring, arguing Toronto should have a morning show that is plugged into the city’s hip-hop culture.
While Parsons says FLOW listeners are passionate, the station is struggling to boost listenership.
Between May 25 and August 30, FLOW had a 0.7 per cent Toronto market share in the A12+ demographic, according to data released on September 10 by broadcast measurement service Numeris.
The top station in Toronto, CBC Radio One, had a 16.7 per cent market share in the same category.
“We’re the only hip-hop station in Canada and there’s a reason for that: the audience for this format, for whatever reason, is tough to acquire,” Parsons says, noting that streaming plays a big part in driving hits.
Hip-hop is currently dominating the top slots on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts in the United States and Canada. But with the exception of Drake, Parsons says it’s rare for a hip-hop artist to cross over to Canadian pop radio stations – aka contemporary hit radio (or CHR) – like Virgin or KiSS.
“We test all our music with our audience and we see incredible passion for the music we play, but we can’t seem to attract an audience as big as we want within the current measurement system,” he says, adding that Numeris does not ask about ethnicity when conducting listener surveys.
“We don’t know whether the panel of people who are measuring radio are representative for our format,” Parsons says.
How does he feel about the future of hip-hop radio in Toronto?
“We love programming it,” Parsons says. “We have a team who are super engaged and who love the format. We’re massive advocates for the future.”