Marian Finucane, Sean O’Rourke and Tubridy lose listeners for RTÉ Radio 1

Ivan Yates lifts Newstalk to its highest national share, latest ratings show

Key RTÉ Radio 1 programmes Marian Finucane, Today with Sean O'Rourke and The Ryan Tubridy Show were the main fallers in the latest radio ratings, while breakfast programmes were among the best performers.

The Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) for the year to the end of March suggests that Finucane's Saturday show has seen its listenership decline by 35,000 to 324,000 since the last survey, published in February.

Her audience is 58,000 lower than it was at this point a year ago, while her Sunday show has fallen 38,000 to 308,000, having slipped 28,000 year-on-year.

O’Rourke dropped to 295,000, down 17,000 since the last survey and 59,000 since reaching a high of 354,000 a year ago. Tubridy now has 304,000 listeners, down 14,000 since the last survey and 32,000 year-on-year.


Radio 1's Liveline, Ray D'Arcy and Ronan Collins have also been tracking downwards on an annual basis, as has Drivetime, although it only declined by 1,000 since the last survey and remains the leader in its highly competitive slot with an audience of 226,000.

Morning Ireland and News at One are holding up better, with both shows gaining listeners since the last survey, as big news events such as Storm Emma lured in a higher audience. The breakfast programme, which saw the addition of Bryan Dobson to its presenter roster last autumn, now has 431,000 listeners, up 8,000 since the last survey, but down 10,000 year-on-year.

‘Work to be done’

Tom McGuire, head of Radio 1, said this survey was “a bit of a curate’s egg, I suppose”, with news and sport doing better than the rest. “There is work to be done with Ryan and Sean,” he said, but he was less concerned about Finucane’s losses, citing the tendency of weekend JNLR numbers to make big swings.

Mr McGuire compared Radio 1's slippage to that of the Liverpool soccer team, which having gone 5-0 up against Roma in the Champions League this week, then conceded two late goals, narrowing its first-leg advantage.

Radio 1 remains the single biggest station by some distance, but its market share fell from 22.2 per cent to 21.5 per cent.

“I think competition is good for all of us,” Mr McGuire said.

Communicorp-owned station Newstalk also recorded gains for its breakfast show, which added 7,000 listeners to 126,000 in this survey and is up 10,000 annually.

Ivan Yates was up 6,000 listeners and has an audience of 145,000 for drivetime show the Hard Shoulder, which is 15,000 higher than Newstalk had for this time slot a year ago. In mid-morning, Pat Kenny restored some of his recent losses and is flat year-on-year at 148,000.

This helped Newstalk to its highest-ever national market share at 6.6 per cent, up from 6.3 per cent.

On sister station Today FM, breakfast presenter Ian Dempsey added 3,000 listeners to 163,000, with his show down 4,000 year-on-year. Muireann O’Connell, who replaced Al Porter in January, took the lunchtime slot up 3,000 to 101,000 over the quarter, and overall the station’s market share rose from 7.2 per cent to 7.3 per cent.

There was little change on RTÉ 2fm’s weekday performance and the station’s market share was flat at 6.8 per cent.

Irish content

"What we're doing here at 2fm is about Irish content, and that's why Irish radio is strong. Local content will win. It's winning now," said head of 2fm Dan Healy. While there has been "some erosion" in the 15-34-year-old age group, overall radio's popularity is "rock solid", he said.

About 16,850 people were interviewed about their radio habits by Ipsos MRBI over the course of 12 months for the survey.

Local and regional radio, as a whole, is more popular than national radio and has now extended its lead to a 55.4 per cent share of all minutes listened.

Choose Radio, a group that represents the radio industry on advertising, urged advertisers to consider the listening habits of their target audience as they allocate their ad budgets throughout 2018.

Gabrielle Cummins, the chief executive of south-east station Beat 102-103 who chairs the group, said the JNLR figures "provide a clear indication of what the audience is actually listening to each day".

Selected movers

JNLR listenership figures for April 2017 to end of March 2018

Tuning in (since last survey)

Morning Ireland (Radio 1) 431,000 up 8,000

The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) 145,000 up 6,000

News at One (Radio 1) 332,000 up 5,000

Pat Kenny (Newstalk) 148,000 up 5,000

The Last Word with Matt Cooper (Today FM) 138,000 up 4,000

Ian Dempsey (Today FM) 163,000 up 3,000

Tuning out (since last survey)

Marian Finucane Saturday (Radio 1) 324,000 down 35,000

Marian Finucane Sunday (Radio 1) 308,000 down 38,000

Today with Seán O’Rourke (Radio 1) 295,000 down 17,000

The Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1) 304,000 down 14,000

Miriam O’Callaghan (Radio 1) 248,000 down 11,000

Ronan Collins (Radio 1) 203,000 down 6,000

Source: Ipsos MRBI

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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