Radio 1 builds recovery as Today FM slides - JNLR survey

Sean O’Rourke, ‘News at One’, Claire Byrne and ‘Drivetime’ among shows adding listeners

RTÉ Radio 1 kept its recovery going in the final months of 2015, but Today FM and RTÉ's 2fm both saw their listener tallies slip, latest radio ratings show.

Radio 1 added 64,000 listeners over the full year, according to the Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey for January-December 2015.

The final quarter was a positive one for the station, with all of its weekday peak-time programmes attracting more listeners. It is now reaching its highest audience since 2009.

Sean O’Rourke’s listenership of 331,000, up 3,000 since the last survey and 33,000 year-on-year, is now higher than Pat Kenny’s audience was in his last full year at Radio 1.


Kenny now has a listenership of 133,000 on Newstalk, down 1,000 on the last survey and 9,000 year-on-year.

Star performer

Newstalk's surge in listenership appears to have eased off for now. Newstalk Breakfast, the Communicorp-owned station's star performer in recent times, lost ground since the last survey but is still up 6,000 year-on-year, at 171,000.

The figures make much less pretty reading for sister station Today FM, which has continued to lose market share.

Ian Dempsey, its breakfast presenter, added 6,000 listeners in the fourth quarter of 2015 and held steady over the course of the year, with 187,000 listeners. Another bright spot for Today FM was Alison Curtis on Saturday mornings. Curtis saw her audience of 141,000, up 6,000, overtake that of Kenny and Today FM's Matt Cooper in the list of Ireland's most popular radio shows.

But elsewhere Today FM struggled, with all of its peak-time weekday shows except the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show declining.

“I see Today FM saying they reach 900,000 listeners weekly. We have 900,000 listeners every day,” said Tom McGuire, head of Radio 1.

Mr McGuire said Ray D’Arcy’s afternoon show, which is up 22,000 at 215,000 listeners since he took over the Radio 1 slot, has “really bedded down and settled down”.

‘Big beasts’

He also praised Mary Wilson's Drivetime for adding 18,000 listeners over the past year. Ms Wilson's programme is "up against two big beasts in George [Hook] and Matt [Cooper]", Mr McGuire noted, yet it has extended its lead.

In the list of the most popular radio programmes, News at One climbed into the fourth slot behind Morning Ireland, Marian Finucane's Saturday programme and Liveline.

The audience for the bulletin, presented by Áine Lawlor and Richard Crowley, is up 34,000 over the full year at 346,000, while there were even higher gains for Saturday with Claire Byrne and Sunday Miscellany.

Head of 2fm Dan Healy said it was "no shock" that the music station, which is aimed at 15- to 34-year-olds, had lost listeners since the latest changes to its schedule, but added he was pleased the profile of its audience was getting younger.

Local radio

Although Radio 1 commands a 23.1 per cent share of listening nationally and 35 per cent in Dublin, local radio stations dominate in parts of the country, with Highland Radio in Donegal, MWR in the west and Radio Kerry all particularly strong in their licence areas.

In the Cork market, Red FM has continued to make gains at the expense of the UTV Media-owned Cork’s 96FM and C103.

Dublin rock music station Radio Nova said it had now more daily listeners than UTV’s Q102, although Nova’s franchise area is larger than Q102’s as it includes the commuter belt. Q102 has a greater reach in Co Dublin itself, where its market share is 5.5 per cent, ahead of Nova’s 3.8 per cent.

Elsewhere in the Dublin market, Sunshine 106.8 has a 4.3 per cent share, while Communicorp’s 98FM and Spin have 6.2 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively. But UTV’s FM103 is the second-biggest station in the capital (behind Radio 1) with 10.9 per cent share.

About 16,750 people were interviewed during the 12-month rolling survey by research firm Ipsos MRBI on behalf of radio stations, advertising bodies and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Based on its findings, some 83 per cent of all adults listen to the radio on a typical day, tuning in for an average of almost four hours.

Younger people are less likely to consume radio, with 77 per cent of the 15- to 34-year-old age group listening daily.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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