Advertising revenues at 2fm rose 20 per cent last year, RTÉ Radio commercial director and head of 2fm Dan Healy has said.
The music station, which has been struggling in recent years, would start to become a “net contributor” to RTÉ later in 2015, Mr Healy said. Commercial income is running up sharply in the year to date.
The RTÉ executive, who was hired by Montrose from the independent sector in 2013 and tasked with turning the station around, was speaking after the publication of the radio audience figures for 2014.
The latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey showed a continuation of a recent positive trend for Ryan Tubridy, who has swelled his audience by 25,000, or 16 per cent, to 177,000 over the course of a year.
But the figures did not conclusively show that the changes made to the schedule last spring are working.
Mr Healy said the latest survey was “always going to be a tricky one” for 2fm and that the next two surveys would provide “clear evidence” that listeners were responding positively to the new line-up.
Radio listenership figures are released quarterly but are based on a rolling 12-month survey of about 16,700 people, which means it can take time before the impact of any schedule changes can be seen.
Mr Healy said the advertising-buying agencies were "supporting" the station. 2fm also signed a number of sponsorship deals last year, with Berocca, SuperValu and Aldi now attaching their names to Breakfast Republic, Tubridy and The Nicky Byrne Show with Jenny Greene respectively.
After a number of rough years, the radio advertising market was flat last year at an estimated €86 million, according to figures from media buyer Carat. It has pencilled in 4 per cent growth this year.
On 2fm, Carat’s media forecast report for 2015 says the station had “at last started to behave commercially and price itself attractively to advertisers”. However, it also questions “whether or not the powers that be will give 2fm the time and resources to return to relevance and commercial viability”.
According to the latest published figures, 2fm made €4.4 million in commercial revenues in 2013, but the gross cost of its operations arrived at €11 million.
This meant that instead of generating a surplus RTÉ could use to subsidise other services, as it did during the boom, it recorded a deficit of €6.2 million.
Between 2009 and 2013, 2fm recorded deficits totalling €21.3 million.
It last made a surplus in 2008, a year in which its commercial revenue topped €20 million. The station was badly affected by the collapse of the advertising market, competition for younger listeners and the death in 2010 of its most popular presenter, Gerry Ryan.
2fm’s national audience share has plummeted from the 12 per cent it commanded five years ago to 6.5 per cent. According to the RTÉ annual report for 2013, €4.49 from every €160 licence fee went on funding the station.