Ryan Tubridy’s ‘nice little distraction’ now number two Irish radio show

Claire Byrne, Matt Cooper and Pat Kenny among ratings winners

Ryan Tubridy, Claire Byrne, Pat Kenny and Matt Cooper were among the main winners in the latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey of radio audiences, with all four presenters consolidating and adding to their pandemic gains.

Newstalk said The Pat Kenny Show had become its biggest ever programme with 184,000 listeners, while Matt Cooper's drivetime audience on Today FM reached its highest point in a decade, while there were gains too for Radio 1 after last year saw some slippage from the station's Covid-19 crisis highs.

Radio 1's news flagship Morning Ireland remains the most listened-to programme on Irish radio, with 459,000 listeners, up from 450,000 in the last survey. The new JNLR survey, which covers the period from May to December 2021, confirms that its audience is comfortably above the 441,000 level it recorded two years ago.

The Ryan Tubridy Show overtook Brendan O'Connor's Saturday show to claim the number two position with 366,000 listeners.

The presenter said he and his team were “very, very happy” with the figures.

“It’s very heartening, it’s very encouraging, and we are very grateful to have the company of all those listeners every morning between 9am and 10am. We enjoy their thoughts and reflections and contribution to the show,” Mr Tubridy said.

“We like to feel in some ways it’s like a 9 o’clock club, and a nice little distraction from all the crazy in the world.”

Today with Claire Byrne, meanwhile, overtook Liveline to become the fourth biggest show with her audience of 346,000 up 6,000 since the last survey, while Liveline slipped 3,000 to 343,000.

Both Mr Tubridy and Ms Byrne, who became the Today presenter in mid-2020, are ahead of the prepandemic figures for their time slots, as is Ronan Collins (242,000) and the News at One (330,000).

Head of RTÉ Radio 1 Peter Woods described the survey as "very heartening" for the station, while head of 2FM and radio strategy Dan Healy said Irish radio was enjoying a "golden era", albeit with audience growth concentrated among listeners aged 35-plus.

The sector’s average quarter-hour listenership of 1,058,000 people, up from 970,000 in the previous survey, is “a really good story for radio” and suggests the medium has emerged from the pandemic in a stronger position than it entered it.

Home listening

The working-from-home phenomenon means more people are free to choose to listen to the radio programmes they like while they work during weekdays, Mr Healy said, and this is offsetting the impact that lower levels of commuting has had on in-car listening.

But the working-from-home effect appears to wane later in the day, with Joe Duffy’s Liveline losing 20,000 listeners over the past two years and Ray D’Arcy’s audience of 209,000 also declining.

“I’m not concerned about Liveline,” said Mr Woods, citing influential editions of the phone-in show on menopause, bank charges and OxyContin addiction. “I know they’re in the right place, and I know they’re going in the right direction.”

Drivetime, presented by Sarah McInerney and Cormac Ó hEadhra, has 227,000 listeners, which is lower than its pandemic high but consistent with the slot’s prepandemic performance.

On the weekend, the biggest show is Mr O’Connor’s Saturday programme, which has a listenership of 351,000. This tally has also dropped back from its pandemic high but is 10,000 above the slot’s prepandemic figure. Mr O’Connor’s Sunday show has 323,000 listeners, while Sunday with Miriam, presented by Miriam O’Callaghan, remains ahead of its prepandemic audience with a listenership of 312,000.

RTÉ Radio 1’s market share nudged up from 21.3 per cent to 21.4 per cent, while 2FM’s share rose from 5.5 per cent to 5.7 per cent, with the station posting a more stable set of figures after slumping during the pandemic.

2FM Breakfast with Doireann, Donncha and Carl, which went on air at the end of May 2021, now has a listenership of 111,000. This is up from 103,000 in the last survey, but remains a below-average number for the slot.

“We believe in the three of them and they have been working really hard,” said Mr Healy.

Jenny Greene’s 3pm-6pm 2FM show added 7,000 listeners to an audience of 129,000. From later this month, Ms Greene will move to 10pm, with the slot filled by Drive It with The 2 Johnnies, presented from Cahir, Co Tipperary, by podcast duo Johnny Smacks and Johnny B.

“I’ve been listening to them for a while. We all have,” said Mr Healy. “We’re going to create a second breakfast show, essentially, at drivetime.”

Today FM and Newstalk

Today FM, which is owned by German media group Bauer, recorded a market share of 8.8 per cent, down from 8.9 per cent in the last survey, but all of its weekday peak-time shows made gains and the station toasted its biggest weekly audience in more than a decade.

Ian Dempsey’s breakfast show now has 184,000 listeners, up 6,000 since the last survey to reach the Today FM stalwart’s highest audience in six years, while mid-morning hosts Dermot & Dave grew their audience by 3,000 to 208,000.

Mairead Ronan, who has now left the station, handed over an audience of 143,000 to new lunchtime host Pamela Joyce, up 11,000 on the last survey, while drivetime presenter Fergal D'Arcy also departs the station at an all-time high with 134,000 listeners, up 2,000. He will be succeeded from Monday by Ray Foley.

The station described the performance of The Last Word with Matt Cooper as “hugely impressive”, with the drivetime current affairs show reaching 173,000 listeners, up 3,000 on the last survey. This is its highest audience in 10 years in what has been one of the most competitive time slots on Irish radio.

Today FM’s biggest weekend show is the Saturday edition of Weekend Breakfast with Alison Curtis, which added 7,000 listeners to reach 199,000.

"These latest audience figures from Today FM are a different class," said James Brownlow, Bauer Media Audio Ireland's managing editor of music and entertainment.

On Bauer-owned Newstalk, which recorded a market share of 7 per cent, down from 7.1 per cent in the last survey, Pat Kenny's listenership rose by 1,000 to reach its new record high of 184,000, while there were also all-time highs for Ciara Kelly and Shane Coleman on Newstalk Breakfast (138,000, up 1,000) and Lunchtime Live with Andrea Gilligan (114,000, up 2,000).

At drivetime, The Hard Shoulder with Kieran Cuddihy has 151,000 listeners, up 5,000 since the last survey, while Sean Moncrieff added 1,000 listeners in the afternoon to 77,000.

"We are delighted to see our audience continue to grow and to see that our output is resonating with and engaging even more listeners," said Newstalk managing editor Patricia Monahan.

Local and regional stations

The survey is based on interviews conducted with 12,600 people between May and December 2021 by research firm Ipsos MBRI on behalf of the radio industry and advertisers.

It found that 3.2 million listeners aged 15-plus tune into radio every weekday, or some 80 per cent of all adults, for an average of four hours and two minutes. Among 15-34 year-olds, 71 per cent listen daily, with this age group more likely to listen to local or regional stations.

In Dublin, where Radio 1 has a 31.7 per cent share of peak-time listening, Newstalk is the second most listened-to station with an 11.9 per cent share. Both national stations are ahead of FM104, which is owned by News Corp subsidiary Wireless and has a 7.4 per cent share of the market in the capital, just ahead of Bauer’s Spin 1038, which has 7.3 per cent.

In Cork, Red FM, in which The Irish Times has a minority stake, is the station with the biggest market share at 22 per cent, ahead of Wireless-owned Cork’s 96FM with 20.7 per cent and Radio 1 on 16.5 per cent.

The station that is most dominant in its franchise area is Highland Radio, which has a 60.8 per cent market share in north Donegal.