Breakfast radio makes gains but Ray D’Arcy and Liveline lose listeners

Radio 1 Morning Ireland stretches lead as most-listened-to programme on Irish radio

Radio 1 presenters Ryan Tubridy and Claire Byrne made gains in the latest radio listenership figures, but Ray D'Arcy's listenership fell. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Breakfast radio shows on national stations RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2FM, Today FM and Newstalk have all added listeners in 2022, but Radio 1′s The Ray D’Arcy Show and Liveline are among the afternoon programmes to see their audience shrink.

Their gains at breakfast and a positive performance in mid-morning meant Today FM and Newstalk, which are owned by German media group Bauer, were both upbeat about the latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey of radio audiences, which covers the 12 months to the end of June 2022.

Today FM has increased its market share of peak-time listening to 9.1 per cent — its highest in more than a decade — while Newstalk has reached a record share of 7.2 per cent. Radio 1′s share is at 21.3 per cent, while 2FM’s edged up to 5.8 per cent.

Head of Radio 1 Peter Woods said the broadcaster would wait until further figures are available in autumn to examine a drop-off in its afternoon listenership at a time when its morning shows are on an upward trajectory.


“We are not 100 per cent sure on the afternoons, but we have seen a drift off from the end of News at One, and that peters out at the end as well,” Mr Woods said. “It’s hard to see what is happening and it’s hard to see where those listeners are going.”

Ray D’Arcy’s audience fell below the 200,000 mark to 197,000 for the year to the end of June. This has dropped from a 2020 high of 242,000 to what is the lowest full-year listenership for the slot since he took it over in 2015, shortly after rejoining RTÉ from Today FM.

Liveline’s listenership, now at 332,000, has been on a downward path since its 2020 pandemic high of 404,000 and, unlike many other Radio 1 shows, it has not recovered ground over the past six months.

Mr Woods said the phone-in show, presented by Joe Duffy, was “not seeing a drop-off” in communication from listeners and that the previous figures enjoyed by the programme, close to and above the 400,000 mark, had been “unsustainable”. Both Liveline and The Ray D’Arcy Show are still easily the biggest shows in their time slots.

Morning Ireland comfortably remains the most-listened-to show on Irish radio with 473,000 listeners. After slipping last year from a pandemic peak of 491,000 in 2020, the audience for Radio 1′s news and current affairs flagship has been climbing again throughout 2022.

Tubridy gains

Ryan Tubridy now has 369,000 listeners, with his show making gains in the past three surveys and staying well above where it stood before the pandemic.

Today with Claire Byrne has 350,000 listeners, having risen above both its 2021 audience and the pre-pandemic figures seen before Ms Byrne became host.

Radio 1 also had a number of strong performers on the weekend, with Sunday with Miriam climbing to 339,000 listeners and Saturday’s Playback now on 358,000 listeners. Brendan O’Connor has lost listeners on Saturday but gained them on Sunday, with his audience for the two days at 346,000 and 341,000 respectively.

There are no exact year-on-year comparisons available as a result of pandemic lockdown disruption to the research, which is conducted face-to-face in people’s homes by Ipsos on behalf of radio stations and advertisers.

The survey for the 12 months to the end of March 2022 was conducted as usual but is only being shared with advertising agencies and partially shared with journalists this week, alongside the more recent July-June survey. The delay was prompted by industry hopes to put in place new advertising software in advance of its release.

Dan Healy, head of 2FM and radio strategy for RTÉ, said he was “very happy” with gains for 2FM Breakfast with Doireann, Donncha and Carl. Their show, which first went on air at the end of May 2021, rose to 123,000 listeners, with the trio securing their third consecutive increase.

Drive It with The 2 Johnnies, the drivetime show that began in a stop-start fashion in the spring amid a sexism controversy, has 122,000 listeners. While this is down from the 129,000 audience the slot had in 2021, when it was occupied by Jenny Greene, Mr Healy said his new hires were “flying it” and — like its breakfast team and weekend presenter Laura Fox — bringing in a different audience to 2FM.

On Today FM, Ian Dempsey now has 201,000 listeners at breakfast, up from 178,000 in 2021, with his tally helped by an earlier 6am start this year. Mr Dempsey is followed on air by Dermot & Dave, aka Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore, who have an audience of 203,000, close to their all-time high. Today FM’s third-highest audience figure is for Alison Curtis’s breakfast show, which on Saturday has 189,000 listeners.

On Newstalk, the biggest show is Pat Kenny, who has 184,000 listeners, while Newstalk Breakfast, presented by Ciara Kelly and Shane Coleman, has 146,000. This is a six-year high for its breakfast show.

Fierce competition

Drivetime news and current affairs remains fiercely competitive across the national stations, with the latest figures showing Sarah McInerney and Cormac Ó hEadhra on Radio 1 have 216,000 listeners, The Last Word with Matt Cooper on Today FM has 174,000 and The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk, presented by Kieran Cuddihy, has 155,000.

The survey of 16,800 people concluded that 3.19 million listeners aged 15-plus tune in to radio every weekday, or some 78.6 per cent of all adults, for an average of four hours. Among 15-34-year-olds, 68.5 per cent listen daily, with this age group more likely to listen to local or regional stations.

In Dublin, Radio 1 has a 32.8 per cent share, Newstalk is in second with a 12.2 per cent share and Bauer’s Spin 1038 is third, with an 8.4 per cent share in the capital.

In Cork, Red FM, in which The Irish Times has a minority stake, is the station with the biggest market share at 21.1 per cent, ahead of Wireless Group’s Cork’s 96FM with 19 per cent.

The station that is most dominant in its franchise area is Highland Radio, which has a 62.9 per cent market share in north Donegal.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics