Blog: 'Ray D'Arcy's departure leaves Today FM with a major headache - who has the star power to draw his figures?'
As departures go, Ray D’Arcy’s decision to return “home” to RTE is hardly as earth-shattering as Pat Kenny’s move to Newstalk, but it certainly leaves Today FM with a major headache.
D’Arcy is undoubtedly the station’s star attraction, winning the ears of 221,000 people daily according to the latest JNLR figures, and he has effectively been the face of the station since he was poached from RTE.
Today FM were admirably gracious when confirming his departure, thanking him on Twitter for the “laughter, tears and amazing radio”, but they must surely be worried.
It is not that they put all their eggs in one basket – Ian Dempsey is still a hugely popular draw even if he is eclipsed by Morning Ireland’s numbers – but D’Arcy’s ratings pulled in the advertisers and they will surely want to do their utmost to retain a decent portion of his audience.
The last thing they want is a mass defection to Ryan Tubridy on 2FM, especially now that it appears the Late Late Show presenter has finally put a stop to his ever falling audience numbers.
The question for Today FM is this: who has the star power to draw D’Arcy-like figures? He took that slot, made it the top rating show on independent radio and held that spot for years. Will his audience toddle off with him? Who is capable of matching that success?
For the moment the station has drafted in Alison Curtis. The Canadian, who has been a familiar voice on Irish radio for many years, is a safe pair of hands in the interim but, it is fair to say, she doesn’t have the name recognition or following of a D’Arcy, Tubridy or even the likes of Ray Foley. Still, there’s no harm in having another female voice helming a weekday show on Irish radio given the relative dearth of them.
D’Arcy’s show had a mix of light entertainment, sob stories, banter, music and increasingly the presenter’s own strong opinions that will not be easy to replicate, as anyone who has heard the programme when he’s been off on holidays will testify.
If I was a betting man, I’d be looking to Seán Moncrieff whose afternoon show on Newstalk is easily one of the most interesting, varied and entertaining on Irish radio.
Failure to secure a big name will mean a huge drop in the ratings. It is no lie to say that both D’Arcy and Dempsey joined Today FM with a built-in audience. As good as it would be to see someone else outside the extremely small pool of very well-known Irish broadcasters get the gig, it seems unlikely.