Marian Finucane and RTÉ Radio 1's weekend sports coverage were the main winners in the latest radio ratings, according to the Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey for 2017.
Finucane clawed back some of the heavy losses sustained in the previous survey, adding 30,000 to her Sunday show and recovering 9,000 listeners on Saturday. The presenter’s Saturday listenership of 359,000 is still 13,000 lower than a year earlier, but her Sunday show is up 38,000 year-on-year at 346,000.
Radio 1's GAA rights, which began on an exclusive basis last summer, have given its Saturday Sport show a 49,000 year-on-year boost to 212,000 listeners, while the Sunday Sport audience of 224,000 is 51,000 higher than it was a year earlier.
A difficult end to the year for Today FM saw the Communicorp-owned station lose listeners in the lunchtime slot presented from February 2017 until mid-November by Al Porter, who then resigned from the station amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
The slot’s listenership fell below the 100,000 mark to 98,000 for the 12 months to the end of December. This compares to 118,000 for the 12 months to the end of September, or a loss of 20,000 listeners since the last survey.
Today FM's market share slipped to 7.2 per cent, down from 7.5 per cent, while sister station Newstalk increased its market share to 6.3 per cent from 6.2 per cent and said it was reaching a record number of listeners.
The decision to put Ivan Yates in the competitive drivetime slot was rewarded with a nudge up in its audience. The slot, renamed the Hard Shoulder, has 139,000 listeners, up 4,000 since the last survey. This means it now has a larger audience than Today FM's the Last Word with Matt Cooper, which fell 2,000 to 134,000, although the Today FM show is a half hour shorter than the Newstalk one.
Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff has added 17,000 listeners over the past year, bringing his afternoon audience to 82,000, while evening sports show Off the Ball reached 55,000, up 7,000 year-on-year. However, Pat Kenny has lost 7,000 listeners from his mid-morning show since the last survey, taking him down to 143,000.
Weekday morning audiences were under pressure across the national stations, with Today FM’s breakfast presenter Ian Dempsey’s audience of 160,000 down 9,000 listeners on the last survey and down 7,000 year-on-year.
Radio 1's Today with Seán O'Rourke dropped 12,000 listeners since the last survey to 312,000 and is down 20,000 year-on-year. Morning Ireland, the most listened to programme, now has an audience of 423,000, which is just 1,000 lower than in the last survey but has fallen 25,000 over the year.
A number of other Radio 1 weekday shows slipped back. This contrasts with its weekend performance, which also saw good gains for Miriam O'Callaghan, the Business with Richard Curran and Claire Byrne's Saturday show, which has now come to an end following Byrne's move to News at One.
Head of Radio 1 Tom McGuire said the new News at One roster of Áine Lawlor and Claire Byrne was "really the fulcrum of the day" on the station, while Byrne's permanent Saturday replacement, Cormac Ó hEadhra, would "bring his own spice" to the schedule after "a good apprenticeship" on other shows.
Overall, Radio 1’s market share fell from 22.6 per cent to 22.2 per cent. However, RTÉ pointed to gains in the weekly reach of all of its stations, which when combined have exceeded 2 million for the first time.
On 2fm, which took its market share to 6.8 per cent from 6.7 per cent, afternoon presenter Tracy Clifford and drivetime host Eoghan McDermott added listeners. Clifford's music-focused show now has an audience of 133,000, up 20,000 year-on-year, while McDermott is listened to by 134,000, up 24,000.
Dan Healy, the head of 2fm, said he was happy with the incremental growth in its audience, particularly among the station's target 15-34-year-old age group. "Everyone here is breathing a lot easier," he said. However, the station is "still burning off" some of its older audience, while it has yet to bed in its new weekend schedule.
In a departure for the station, a 2fm radio drama could go into production later this year, he said, also flagging the station’s plans to include more current affairs and “public service content”.
“The 15-34-year-old age group like content, and they like news and current affairs,” he said. “We’re heading into an interesting time in Ireland with the referendum coming up and we’ll be looking at how we cover that.”
The survey, which is compiled for the radio industry by research firm Ipsos MRBI, found that the medium remains strong in Ireland, with 83 per cent of adults listening on a typical day for more than four hours on average.
JNLR listenership figures for January 2017 to end of December 2017
Tuning in (since last survey)
Marian Finucane Sunday (Radio 1) 346,000 up 30,000
Miriam O’Callaghan (Radio 1) 259,000 up 21,000
Saturday Sport (Radio 1) 212,000 up 10,000
Eoghan McDermott (2fm) 134,000 up 7,000
Tracy Clifford (2fm) 133,000 up 6,000
The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk) 139,000 up 4,000
Tuning out (since last survey)
Al Porter / lunchtime slot (Today FM) 98,000 down 20,000
Today with Seán O’Rourke (Radio 1) 312,000 down 12,000
The Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1) 318,000 down 12,000
Ian Dempsey (Today FM) 160,000 down 9,000
Drivetime (Radio 1) 227,000 down 9,000
Pat Kenny (Newstalk) 143,000 down 7,000
Source: Ipsos MRBI