Brendan O’Connor is back in the RTÉ big league
But retaining Marian Finucane’s Radio 1 audience won’t be easy
Brendan O’Connor will be behind the RTÉ Radio 1 microphone in the weekend 11am to 1pm slot from mid-March. Picture: Kinlan Photography.
Five years after RTÉ television bosses unceremoniously axed his Saturday chat show to make way for big-money signing Ray D’Arcy, Brendan O’Connor’s star is on the rise again at Montrose. Indeed, it is outshining that of the man who replaced him on Saturday nights.
Back in 2011, when the Brendan O’Connor Show was a year into its run on RTÉ One, O’Connor was the sixth-highest paid RTÉ presenter, behind Ryan Tubridy, Pat Kenny, Marian Finucane, Joe Duffy and Miriam O’Callaghan.
He was paid €228,500 by RTÉ that year, though by the time the earnings list was published in 2013, his contract had been brought down to €158,000 amid a wider RTÉ push to reduce top pay.
In 2015, however, RTÉ found its chequebook to rehire D’Arcy, with the decision spelling the end for O’Connor’s Saturday show. Its demise may have been a blessing in medium-term disguise. While D’Arcy became the one to labour with a celebrity-dependent chat format broadcast in the shadow of the Late Late Show, O’Connor was able to switch to a programme that more obviously exploited his journalistic skills and talent for sailing close to several winds.
This mid-week panel discussion show, variously known as the Cutting Edge or Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge, was also “rested” by RTÉ last year, with the broadcaster indicating that a new vehicle would be developed for the presenter.
That suggestion takes on much greater significance now that O’Connor has been chosen to fill the Saturday and Sunday, 11am-1pm slots on Radio 1 following the death of Finucane. In order to give O’Connor the best shot of retaining Finucane’s unusually high weekend audience, RTÉ will be motivated to give him a high-profile outing on television too.
And if O’Connor’s contract propels him back into the ranks of its top earners (notwithstanding the deflationary pressures that currently apply to RTÉ pay), RTÉ should also want to get its money’s worth.
O’Connor’s on-air charisma and dedication to keeping things “sparky” should put him in good stead when it comes to the hard task of retaining Finucane’s audience on radio. But, as RTÉ itself knows, it will still be a hard task.