Sunshine 106.8 relaxes into Dublin’s radio ‘bloodbath’

Easy listening station has become the music leader in city’s congested audio market as others falter

The mood was sunny on Sunshine 106.8 on Friday with the radio station billing itself as “Dublin’s easy place to relax”, expressing gratitude to listeners for making it the most popular music station in the capital for the first time (and the third biggest station overall behind RTÉ Radio 1 and Newstalk).

Sunshine’s 8.3 per cent share of peak-time listening in the latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey is “an amazing result”, breakfast presenter Robbie Fogarty told listeners, and one that everybody at Sunshine is “very humbled by”. It goes to show, he added, that “people like to relax and take the stress out of modern living”.

The Dublin radio market, however, remains a stressful place for many.

“Dublin is a bloodbath,” is how head of 2FM Dan Healy put it this week with his trademark bluntness. The youth-targeting RTÉ music station has long underperformed in the city – “an extremely congested market” – and has lately concentrated on building its audience elsewhere. 2FM has to be “sensible”, Healy says, given Bauer’s Spin 1038 “owns” 15-34s in Dublin.


Indeed, Spin has a 26.6 per cent share in Dublin among 15-34-year-olds, putting it ahead of every other station for this group, and a whopping 43.7 per cent share if that age range is narrowed to 15-24s. But this dominance among the shrinking pool of younger listeners is no longer enough to give it the music lead for all adults over the age of 15, with its overall market share now slightly behind Sunshine’s at 8.1 per cent.

Next on the list for Dublin share of peak-time listening are Radio Nova and national station Today FM, both at 6.6 per cent. They come in ahead of one-time music leader FM104 on 6.5 per cent. There has been a big change in the pecking order here: five years ago, FM104, owned by News Corp’s Wireless Group, had a 12.1 per cent share, with Sunshine then just one of the chasing pack.

Some context: young people and people in Dublin are both less likely than others to listen to radio, and young people in Dublin the least likely of all. While 78.3 per cent of Irish adults listen to radio on a typical weekday, that proportion in Dublin is 71.4 per cent. Among 15-34s, it is 67.9 per cent, and among 15-34s in Dublin, it is 59.3 per cent.

With its natural strength residing among the over-35s, Sunshine – which counts chief executive Seán Ashmore and Radio Nova boss Kevin Branigan as its main investors – is positioned at the relatively “easy” end of the Dublin market to make hay while the sun still shines. If only the radio business was as relaxing as its playlist.