Kenny gains but O’Rourke still well in front in radio battle

Newstalk morning slot up 18,000; RTE show down 7,000 since last survey

Pat Kenny’s Newstalk show has gained has gained 18,000 audience since the last survey but his listenership figures are still less than a third of his RTÉ One replacement Sean O’Rourke , figures released today show.

The JNLR figures are the the first indication of whether or not radio listeners have moved the dial to Newstalk since the former RTÉ broadcaster began his new morning show in September .

O’Rourke’s show lost 7,000 listeners since the last survey but he has seen a year-on-year increase of 6,000. However the RTE show retains its dominance with 327,000 listeners compared with Kenny’s 96,000.

Four months in, O’Rourke is still well in front. However the winner of the battle between the mid-morning presenters is not clear from these figures ,which are averaged out over a 12 month period from January to December 2013.

It is difficult to compare Kenny’s figures year-on-year because it is a new time slot, however it is up 43,000 year-on year compared with predecessor Tom Dunne’s shorter morning show.

O’Rourke said it was “reassuring” that people were still listening in such large numbers. To be 6,000 ahead year-on-year was a “great achievement” and a tribute to people working on the show, he told The Irish Times.

The presenter knew they were “in a battle for the ears of the people”, he said. He was not surprised his show had strong figures because he had received good feedback from people across the country. The result was an “assurance” not a “relief”, O’Rourke said.

Asked about the dip from the last survey , he said year on year was the best comparator and there would be “fluctuations” in a long battle.

Despite a very heavy advertising campaign, Kenny’s figures are not yet at the 200,000 level which Newstalk colleague George Hook previously said was needed to “justify all the palaver” of the station’s big signing.

The show is not at high as Hook’s show, which remains the station’s biggest at 130,000 (down 4,000 since the last survey but 1,000 year-on-year). It is also behind The Breakfast Show with Chris Donohue and recently returned former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates at 126,000 (up 5,000 since the last survey but level-year-on-year) and Sean Moncrieff’s afternoon slot (112,000, up 17,000 in a year)

Newstalk chief executive Gerard Whelan described Kenny’s performance as “strong” and was “delighted” with the results which show that Communicorp owned station was generating “great momentum”.

The other mid-morning battle between Today FM and 2FM has seen Ray D'Arcy lose 13,000 listeners year-on-year and 1,000 since the last survey to 230,000. Ryan Tubridy has "stabilised", according to head of 2fm Dan Healy. While his figures are flat since the last survey at 152,000, they are down 8,000 year-on-year.

The afternoon slots have brought good and bad results for RTE. Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme slipped for the third consecutive survey with its 399,000 audience 21,000 lower than a year ago. However 2FM’s Rick O’Shea in the afternoon is up 8,000.

Despite the fall, Liveline retains its place as the second-most listened to show in the country, just behind Morning Ireland which has 8,000 more listeners than the same period last year at 449,000.

RTE’s other breakfast offering is undergoing a shake-up with the Christmas departure of d Hector Ó hEochagáin. His show had a good result, up 12,000 since the last survey to 136,000. Mr Healy said the station is imagining a “new future” with new hosts Republic of Telly’s Bernard O’Shea and Jennifer Maguire and Phantom’s Keith Walsh. All of 2FM’s gains were from the under 35s, Mr Healy said.

Breakfast on Today FM has seen sharp increases for presenter Ian Dempsey at 189,000. That is a 9,000 increase since the previous survey and a 14,000 increase increase year-on-year.

Weekend numbers were strong for RTE with Marian Finucane’s Saturday show gaining 13,000 year-on-year to 376,000 and 2fm’s Weekenders with Ruth Scott and Paddy McKenna up 24,000 year-on-year.