Ivan Yates and Ryan Tubridy add listeners, but Pat Kenny’s audience slips

2fm has ‘soft’ quarter amid revamp, while Muireann O’Connell gains listeners at Today FM

RTÉ Radio 1, Newstalk and Today FM have all gained market share in the Irish radio market, but 2fm's performance slipped in a "soft" quarter, according to the latest radio audience figures.

On Newstalk, Ivan Yates added listeners, but colleague Pat Kenny lost ground, while Today FM lunchtime presenter Muireann O'Connell saw her audience rise in her show's final months on air.

Yates emerged as one of the clearest winners in the Joint National Listenership Survey (JNLR), for which about 17,000 people were interviewed about their radio habits by Ipsos MRBI between July 2018 and the end of June 2019.

His programme, the Hard Shoulder, reached a record high of 183,000 listeners, up 10,000 since the last survey and 30,000 year-on-year.


It was the only weekday peak-time show on Newstalk to climb, with Kenny’s audience dropping 8,000 since the last survey to 142,000, down 10,000 since its peak one year ago.

But it was enough to see Newstalk's market share nudge up to 6.9 per cent, up from 6.8 per cent and leapfrogging that of a declining 2fm. Newstalk managing editor Patricia Monahan said the station was "delighted with the results", adding that on a "listened yesterday" basis it had overtaken Radio 1 in the 20-44-year-old age group.

On Today FM, O’Connell had a listenership of 96,000, down 10,000 year-on-year, but up 3,000 since the last survey. Earlier this week, Today FM announced that she was leaving the station, to be succeeded in the slot by presenter and Dancing with the Stars winner Mairéad Ronan.

On Today FM’s weekday peak-time line-up, O’Connell – who tweeted that she had been fired – and Fergal D’Arcy were the only two shows to add listeners in this survey.

The Communicorp-owned station still managed to increase its market share to a two-year high of 7.6 per cent, up from 7.4 per cent, which chief executive Keith McCormack said was “hugely encouraging”.

Radio 1 moves

Radio 1 managing editor Peter Woods said the station had "a very good story" to tell after its market share rose to 22.1 per cent, up from 21.8 per cent.

Morning Ireland remains the biggest radio programme, with its listenership of 424,000 up 3,000 since the last survey, but down 14,000 year-on-year.

News at One's audience fell 5,000 to 329,000, down 17,000 year-on-year. But there were better fortunes for Ryan Tubridy, who added 4,000 listeners, taking his audience to 332,000, up a healthy 21,000 over the year.

On Radio 1’s weekday line-up, many of the moves since the last survey were modest. On the traditionally more volatile weekend figures, Marian Finucane’s Saturday audience fell 8,000 to 374,000, but this is still up 45,000 year-on-year.

On Sunday, Finucane has 311,000 listeners, down 14,000 since the last survey and 10,000 over the year. Another faller was Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra on Radio 1, which lost 15,000 listeners to 212,000, down 22,000 year-on-year.

RTÉ 2fm’s market share fell from 7 per cent to 6.7 per cent. Its latest figures almost entirely relate to the old weekday schedule in place before June, a month in which all the time slots and many of the presenters were changed.

Head of 2fm Dan Healy said the station had a "tough six months" leading up to new line-up and that the second quarter of 2019 had been "a little softer than we expected". He attributed this to the absence of certain regular presenters from its former breakfast and mid-morning shows.

Mr Healy said Breakfast with Doireann and Eoghan had “hit the ground so fast” since June, while the station had been buoyed by the show’s recent securing of a sponsor (McDonald’s) at a time when the radio market is finding it hard to keep advertisers interested in the medium.

Advertising market

“The ad market is soft and it shouldn’t be soft,” he said. “There are different issues with different age groups, but we are all busting our you-know-whats to deliver great radio.”

Choose Radio, a cross-industry group that represents the industry to advertisers, noted that radio continued to be the audio medium of choice with an 85 per cent share of the Irish audio market, compared with 7.8 per cent for own music, 5.6 per cent for Spotify and 1.1 per cent for podcasts.

In Dublin, Wireless Group stations FM104 and Q102 both made gains, as did Newstalk and Today FM, although RTÉ’s share fell. In Cork, Wireless’s 96FM and C103 declined, while Red FM, in which the Irish Times has a minority stake, added to its share, taking it to 23.4 per cent.

Donegal’s Highland Radio remained the local station with the largest market share in its licence area at 64.4 per cent. WLR FM, which is majority owned by The Irish Times, has a 41.7 per cent share of listening in Waterford, while youth station Beat 102 103, also part of the Irish Times group, has a 15.6 per cent share in the south east.

Some 82 per cent of people listen to the radio on an average day, tuning in for more than four hours, Ipsos MRBI’s research suggests. Among the younger 15-34-year-old market, 74 per cent listen daily.

Selected figures: Radio listenership for July 2018 – June 2019

Morning Ireland (Radio 1) 424,000 up 3,000

Ryan Tubridy (Radio 1) 332,000 up 4,000

Liveline (Radio 1) 372,000 down 3,000

The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) 142,000 down 8,000

The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) 183,000 up 10,000

Ian Dempsey (Today FM) 179,000 down 2,000

Muireann O’Connell (Today FM) 96,000 up 3,000

Fergal D’Arcy (Today FM) 109,000 up 3,000

Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra (Radio 1) 212,000 down 15,000

Marian Finucane, Sunday (Radio 1) 311,000 down 14,000

*Changes shown are compared to the last survey, which covered April 2018 – March 2019.

Source: Ipsos MRBI

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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