Bell to reduce workforce by 4,800, divest 45 radio stations

Bell has announced it’s reducing its workforce by 4,800 positions and selling 45 of its 103 radio stations, pending CRTC approval.

Representing 9% of the company’s workforce, the restructuring initiative is the company’s largest in nearly 30 years, which BCE says will drive cost savings of $150 million to $200 million. Fewer than 10 per cent of the total job cuts are within the Bell Media division.

Subject to regulatory approval, seven buyers are in line to purchase its divested stations:

  • Vista Radio has entered into an agreement to purchase 21 in B.C., including CHOR-FM Summerland, CJAT-FM Trail, CKKC-FM Nelson, CKGR-FM Golden, CKXR-FM Salmon Arm, CKCR-FM Revelstoke, CJMG-FM Penticton, CKOR-AM Penticton, CJOR-AM Osoyoos, CICF-FM Vernon, CHSU-FM, CILK-FM and CKFR-AM Kelowna, CKNL-FM Fort St. John, CHRX-FM Fort St. John, CJDC-AM Dawson Creek, CKRX-FM Fort Nelson, CFTK-AM and CJFW-FM Terrace, CHTK-FM Prince Rupert and CKTK-FM Kitimat
  • Maritime Broadcasting System Limited (MBS Radio) intends to purchase five stations including CKTY-FM and CKTO-FM in Truro, NS; CKBC-FM Bathurst NB; CJCJ-FM Woodstock, NB; and CIKX-FM Grand Falls, NB
  • Arsenal Media will acquire Quebec stations CHRD-FM and CJDM-FM Drummondville, CFEI-FM Ste-Hyacinthe, CFZZ-FM St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, CIKI-FM and CJOI-FM Rimouski, and CFVM-FM Amqui
  • My Broadcasting Corporation will acquire CFJR-FM and CJPT-FM Brockville and CFLY-FM and CKLC-FM Kingston
  • Whiteoaks Communications Group will acquire CKLH-FM Hamilton, CHRE-FM and CHTZ-FM and CKTB-AM St. Catharines
  • Durham Radio will acquire CKLY-FM Lindsay, and CKPT-FM and CKQM-FM Peterborough
  • ZoomerMedia Limited will acquire CJOS-FM Owen Sound

In an open letter titledAdapting and moving forward,” BCE President Mirko Bibic cited a difficult economy and a government and regulatory environment “that has undermined Bell’s investment in its networks and failed to support our media business in a time of crisis and fail to level the playing field with global tech giants.”

Mirko Bibic

“Of particular concern is a recent decision by the CRTC forcing Bell to provide third party resellers access to our high-speed fibre network before we have even had an opportunity to recoup our multi-billion dollar investment,” wrote Bibic. “As I’ve shared before, at Bell Canada every year we can expect to lose over $250 million in legacy phone revenues. At Bell Media, our advertising revenues declined by $140 million in 2023 compared to 2022. Across Bell Media’s news operations, we continue to incur over $40 million in annual operating losses despite having the most-watched network of local TV stations.”

Bibic said the restructuring will allow the company to be more agile, “but also requires it to move away from highly regulated parts of the business to new growth areas – and to align our costs to the revenue potential of each business segment.”

BCE operating revenue in the fourth quarter of 2023 increased 0.5% year-over-year to $6,473 million. Media operating revenue decreased 7.5% in Q4 to $822 million, and 4.2% in 2023 to $3,117 million, as a result of lower year-over-year advertising revenue, partly offset by higher subscriber revenue. Ad revenue was down 13.7% in Q4, particularly for TV, partly explained by last year’s FIFA World Cup in Q4 2022 not recurring. For full-year 2023, advertising revenue decreased 8.6%.

Total digital revenues grew 27% in Q4 and 19% in 2023, the result of ongoing Crave direct-to-consumer streaming growth and increased advertising bookings from Bell Media’s strategic audience management (SAM) TV media sales tool. Digital revenues represented 35% of total Bell Media revenue in 2023, up from 29% in 2022. Crave subscriptions totalled approximately 3.1 million customers at the end of 2023, including direct-to-consumer streaming subscribers which grew 14% over last year.

BCE’s annual common share dividend was $3.99, including a 3.1% or $0.12 per share increase.


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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessenhttps://broadcastdialogue.com
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email - corrections@broadcastdialogue.com

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