Cantillon: Kenny needs at least 150,000 listeners on Newstalk
Competition in the mid-morning radio market will be intense
Pat Kenny will be expected to attract more than 150,000 listeners from the outset
Pat Kenny’s defection to Newstalk will be an intriguing test of his star wattage. Tom Dunne, who will be shifted to another part of the station’s schedule, attracted about 55,000 listeners to his 10am-12pm slot.
Kenny's programme will presumably be newsier than Dunne’s, competing with RTÉ for such items as interviews with Government ministers: The Dunne faithful can’t be relied upon to stick around for Newstalk’s veteran signing.
So the question is how many of the Today with Pat Kenny listenership – some 328,000 people at the last count – can Kenny bring with him?
At the moment, Newstalk’s most popular show is The Right Hook, which has 134,000 listeners. Kenny will be expected to attract more than 150,000 listeners from the outset. The final figure will also depend upon how much of an audience Kenny can inherit from the show before his, Newstalk Breakfast. It has an audience of 120,000 but will also be expected to grow its listenership following the return of Ivan Yates in the autumn.
The ultimate test for the Newstalk schedule revamp will be whether it can eventually bring owner Communicorp back into the black.
Even if Kenny flops he will still take some listeners away from RTÉ Radio One. So for RTÉ it will be imperative to choose a presenter who can bring in a new kind of listenership to the slot. This is just one of the reasons Miriam O’Callaghan (or one of her female colleagues) must be favourite for the role.
Radio advertising is not as important to the broadcaster as television – RTÉ made €21 million from radio ads last year and €85 million from television ads, according to its annual report. But television revenues have been under more intense pressure than radio, making it more vital than ever that RTÉ doesn’t suffer a collapse in radio market share.
Before Kenny’s departure, RTÉ’s new radio management would have been looking for a solid performance from Radio One and a minor recovery at 2fm. Now it will be praying the commercial damage from Kenny’s exit can be mitigated with the help of another Montrose ‘star’ and that there are no more nasty transfer-season surprises in store.