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Marc’s Mailbag: Transmissions from Jeanne

Marc's Mailbag

Every so often, we receive questions from listeners about what goes on at CKUA, behind the scenes. As such, we’re pleased to present Marc’s Mailbag, wherein our CEO/Monthly subscriber/campaign leadership donor, Marc Carnes, answers some of the more interesting queries we’ve received recently. This month’s edition finds Marc answering the following questions from a listener and CKUA donor named Jeanne:

How much to you spend on power a month compared to my 400 kWh/month at home?

How much does a new or refurbished transmitter cost (parts, installation)?

Do you have any plans/dreams/needs to add Alberta transmitter sites/coverage or are you going to stick with internet/wireless for future?

How many listeners/donors are in USA versus the rest of Canada?.

Love your music, many hours on AB roads in my past listening to your shows. 

Here’s how Marc responded!

Hi Jeanne,

Thank you for your email and questions. I love it when our listeners are curious to know more about CKUA.  Answers are below:

How much do you spend on power a month compared to my 400kWh/mo home?

  • You can probably consider our power usage to be at a commercial/light-industrial level. We use approximately 220,000 kWh per month between our studios and transmitters. At 400 kWh per home, we use as much power per month as 550 homes. Another way of looking at it: Most radio stations have one transmitter. With us having 16, it’s like 16 radio stations and all the associated technical needs and costs.

How much does a new or refurbished transmitter cost (parts, installation?)

  • It depends on whether it’s a high-power transmitter intended to reach long distances, or low-power intended to reach a specific area. To give you an example, the transmitter relocation that we will be undertaking in Drumheller this year, which is a low-power installation of new equipment, will cost just shy of $300,000, all-in.

Do you have any plans/dreams/needs to add Alberta transmitter sites/coverage or are you going to stick with internet/wireless for future? 

  • It would have to be a rock-solid business case to add a new FM transmitter site or expand the current ones. Given that our current transmitter infrastructure already covers 90%+ of the populated area of the province, I’m not sure if that business case exists. We’d end up spending a lot of money broadcasting to small pockets and low-density populations, and a lot of moose, cows, and trees. In addition to the six-figure, upfront equipment investment and installation per transmitter, the annual operating cost would be in the thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars (location rent, power, insurance, repairs and maintenance etc). Given that a fraction of a community listens to CKUA and, on average, 10% of those listeners donate to CKUA, the number of likely donors gets pretty small pretty quick to reliably cover that cost year after year. As much as we’d love to have seamless coverage across the province, our community-supported business model means we have to do our projections based on populated areas and corridors where people spend most of their time. It would be irresponsible to ‘open up shop’ in a new area if we couldn’t be sure to cover the cost of being there. At least with internet/wireless, it’s already happening at no extra cost. And telecoms are starting to catch up with coverage and pricing to create a more affordable and ubiquitous experience.

How many listeners/donors are in USA, or, RoC (Rest of Canada)?

  • It’s difficult to put a direct number on listeners since it depends on how you define a listener. Is it someone who listens for a certain amount of time or frequency?  Radio stats are strange like that. That said, over the past year, nearly 394,000 unique users streamed CKUA from across Canada, and nearly 1,300 people from outside of Alberta donated. More than 30,000 unique users streamed CKUA from the U.S., and just shy of 150 people donated. This means that, in our own way, CKUA is one of the biggest exporters of Albertan music, arts and culture out there.

Thanks again for your questions, Jeanne.  And for being a member of the The Crew!

Do you have a question for Marc’s Mailbag? Please write us and we’ll get it to Marc right away!