Rose of Tralee TV viewing figures hit 10-year low
Audience for RTÉ’s broadcast of the final has declined by 33% over the past six years
Rose of Tralee compere Dáithí Ó Sé with this year’s contestants. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times
Viewing figures for RTÉ’s broadcast of the Rose of Tralee final have dropped by 33 per cent over the past six years, according to the official TAM/Nielsen ratings.
The concluding programme, broadcast live from the Dome in Tralee on Tuesday night, in which Chicago Rose Maggie McEldowney won the title, was seen by an average of 618,000 viewers.
This compares with 652,000 viewers for the equivalent show in 2015, and 694,000 in 2014, and is the lowest number recorded in the last decade.
The numbers show that the programme has seen a marked decline in its TV audience over the last six years.
In 2010, 916,000 people on average watched the second show. This year’s results represent a fall of 298,000, or 33 per cent, from that figure.
However, RTÉ continues to insist that ratings are holding up.
The broadcaster’s official press release, headed “2016 Rose of Tralee is a hit with viewers” focused on two metrics to claim that “the crowning of the new Rose of Tralee drew a peak of 743,800”, and that “1.7million viewers tuned in over the two days to watch”.
However, those figures are not quite as lovely or fair as they may appear at first sight.
RTÉ chose this year to highlight the “*peak-minute audience”, recorded at 11.12pm on Tuesday and the “reach” – the number of people who had watched at least one minute of the programmes.
The “average audience” number, which calculates the average number of viewers across an entire programme, is the one most generally used to describe a TV show’s actual ratings performance, and is also the measure used to calculate up end-of-year lists of the most-watched programmes.
There are a number of potential reasons for the slippage in popularity. Sources inside RTÉ point to Dundalk FC’s involvement in a Champions League qualifying match on Tuesday as a possible one-off contributory factor.
More broadly, television viewing habits are changing, with on-demand and online streaming services offering viewers more choices and fragmenting the market.
RTÉ’s own numbers show that to date there have been over 115,000 online streams of the show via its RTÉ Player, representing a 60 per cent increase on the same period in 2015.
Forty per cent of those streams were served to international audiences, with the highest number of international streams coming from the UK, US and Germany.
However, these numbers relate to total streams (live and on-demand) from the middle of last week (the date that Rose of Tralee Extras were made available online) to 9am on Wednesday and do not give any details on which show on which night was watched most, or for how long people actually watched.
Given the very particular – in fact, unique - character of the Rose of Tralee as a television entertainment product in the modern age, the question inevitably arises: are Irish people finally tiring of watching an endless line of lovely girls parading across their screens for hour after hour after hour?
RTÉ’s attempts to gussy up the format and get rid of the poetry this year suggests the broadcaster fears that might just be the case.