Joe Duffy’s ‘Liveline’ overtakes Marian Finucane in radio ratings

2fm, Today FM and Newstalk lose listeners, as stations aimed at younger audiences struggle

Joe Duffy’s ‘Liveline’ has added 24,000 listeners over the past year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Joe Duffy’s ‘Liveline’ has added 24,000 listeners over the past year. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Joe Duffy’s Liveline has overtaken Marian Finucane to become the second most-listened to radio programme in Ireland, the latest audience figures show.

But the popularity of Today FM and Newstalk waned, and the head of 2fm Dan Healy insisted it was “not a day for panic” after the station’s market share fell back.

The Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey for October 2015 to September 2016 shows that the Radio 1 phone-in show has added 24,000 listeners over the past year and 4,000 since the last quarter.

This gives it an audience of 395,000, overtaking Finucane’s Saturday morning programme, and closing the gap on Morning Ireland’s listenership of 444,000.

The survey was a happy one for Radio 1, which grew its national market share to 23.8 per cent, or some 880,000 daily listeners. In Dublin, it now commands a 35.5 per cent chunk of the market, which head of Radio 1 Tom McGuire described as “heartwarming”.

Elsewhere, Cork’s Red FM continued its recent pattern of strong listener gains, while Dublin music station 98FM, owned by Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp, grew its market share in the capital.

But RTÉ music station 2fm saw its market share drop from 6 per cent to 5.8 per cent, as it haemorrhaged older listeners and struggled to recruit younger ones. Its daily listenership has fallen by 59,000 over the year.

“I’m disappointed,” said Dan Healy, head of 2fm, adding that he was “very proud of what we have on air” and had expected growth in its market share.

“I don’t believe this is a tipping point or anything like it, but we are competing for audiences with mobiles. We’re seeing some sort of critical mass on podcasting,” he said. “We have to just hold the nerve.”

Communicorp’s Newstalk introduced a new schedule in September, and it will take a year before the popularity of individual shows can be accurately gauged.

However, its daily reach of 367,000 listeners has dropped 35,000 over the past year, while its sister station, Today FM, has lost 56,000 listeners in that period, giving it a daily reach of 397,000.

Some 82 per cent of all adults listen to radio on a typical day, down 1 percentage point since the last survey, conducted by research firm Ipsos MRBI. Some 27,000 listeners have left the market over the past year.

Among 15-34-year-olds, just 76 per cent listen daily. This age group listens for much shorter periods than older listeners, tuning for an average of 198 minutes each day compared to an average listening stint of 276 minutes for the over-35s.

The figures, published on day when Dublin’s alternative music station TXFM closed down, point to challenging times for stations aimed at younger listeners.

TXFM, which announced in March that it would not be renewing its licence, finished with a listenership of 19,000. This was up 3,000 since the last quarter, but is short of the number required to make it commercially viable.

At the other end of the listening age spectrum, Radio 1 is seeing positive year-on-year trends for weekend shows Sunday Miscellany, The Business and Countrywide, while Ray D’Arcy has brought in listeners on weekday afternoons.

Mr McGuire said the secret of Liveline’s success was audience curiosity about how Duffy will handle the topics of the day, and that it continually remakes itself.

“The stories come in, and the amount of stuff that doesn’t get to air is just incredible.”