Saturday 15 December 2018

JNLRs: Marian Finucane sees biggest losses in listenership at RTE Radio 1, gains for Newstalk and Today FM

2FM sees minor losses book on book

Marian Finucane
Marian Finucane
Daniel O'Donnell in studio with Marian Finucane
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

RTE Radio 1 has seen the biggest losses across weekdays and weekends in the latest Joint National Listenership Research figures (JNLRs) as 2FM sees minor losses and Newstalk and Today FM celebrate modest gains.

RTE stalwart Marian Finucane has seen the biggest drop in audience since the last book in February, losing 35,000 listeners on Saturday and 38,000 on Sunday.

Newstalk and Today FM, meanwhile, have seen modest gains across the board for weekday daytime while RTE 2FM has seen minor losses book on book.

Despite her dramatic drop in listeners on this book, Marian Finucane’s programmes are still the fourth and fifth most-listened to in the country as she reaches an impressive 324,000 listeners on Saturdays and 308,000 on Sundays. 

Also on weekends at Radio 1, Claire Byrne’s Saturday show, which she departed in February, and which was taken over by Cormac Ó hEadhra, has dropped 19,000 since the last book to 219,000, although a drop is expected initially after a change in presenter or programme.  Miriam O’Callaghan on Sunday, meanwhile, has also seen a drop of 11,000 listeners to reach 248,000. 

Also down this book are Ryan Tubridy from 318,000 to 305,000 - for his morning chat show, and Sean O’Rourke, whose late morning current affairs programme now reaches 295,000 - 17,000 fewer than February.  Ronan Collins’ afternoon show is down 6,000 listeners.

It’s not all bad news for RTE Radio 1, however, as there are strong figures for news and current affairs, likely thanks in no small part to our series of adverse weather events in early March.  The station’s flagship morning programme, Morning Ireland, remains the biggest morning show in the country with 431,000 listeners, up 8,000 since the last book and clawing back most of the 11,000 drop from the previous book. 

The News at One, which saw Claire Byrne joining Aine Lawlor to present in February, has seen an increase of 5,000 to hit 332,000, moving it up from the fifth most listened to programme in the country to the third. 

Presenter Ryan Tubridy Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Presenter Ryan Tubridy Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

In the late afternoon, Drivetime with Mary Wilson has 226,000 listeners, holding relatively steady with a loss of just 1,000 listeners book on book while Ray D’Arcy has lost just 2,000 to hit 205,000, down 8,000 year on year.

Joe Duffy's Liveline is still the second most popular show in the country despite dropping 3,000 - it still reaches an impressive audience of 373,000.

Speaking about the figures, RTE Radio 1 boss Tom McGuire told, “RTE Radio 1 accounts for 19 of the top 20 radio programmes in the country and has 1.4 million listeners ever week.  It’s a bit of a mixed bag overall on this book but news and sport are really strong and afternoons are really good.”

Regarding the drop in listenership for Finucane on weekends, he added, “In the last book Marian was up 35,000 on Sunday. It’s a really seasonal thing with weekends so they always fluctuate book on book.

Claire Byrne at RTE, Donnybrook, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Claire Byrne at RTE, Donnybrook, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

“Some of the big programmes like Ryan and Sean and Marian are coming off a really big book.  I tend to look at an average of four books and now we’re losing the legacy of the 2016 anniversaries and elections and the new Taoiseach.  We did really well then and when you do really well like that you know that four or five books later, 12 or 18 months down the line, you’ll pay the price when it goes back to normal business.”

He adds, “Radio 1 is like a big ship – it’s slow to turn. To use a football analogy - it’s like Liverpool the other night in one way because it’s so big and being 5-0 up and conceding two goals in the last quarter.”

It’s positive news for Newstalk and Today FM as they celebrate modest gains for weekday daytime, the largest of which is a 7,000 gain for Newstalk Breakfast, presented by Paul Williams, Shane Coleman, and Alan Quinlan.  It now reaches 126,000 listeners - 10,000 more than this time last year. 

Also at Newstalk, Pat Kenny has increased his listenership by 5,000 to reach 148,000, steady from last year.  Dr Ciara Kelly’s lunchtime slot, Lunchtime Live, meanwhile, remains static book on book at 99,000.  Prior to stepping down in the wake of controversial comments about rape, George Hook was drawing 97,000 listeners for that slot last year.

Top 20 radio programmes in Ireland for adults 15+
Top 20 radio programmes in Ireland for adults 15+

Ivan Yates’ The Hard Shoulder has drawn 6,000 more listeners since the last book and now has a listenership of 145,000.  Previous hosts Chris O’Donoghue and Sarah McInerney had 130,000 listeners for that slot in April 2017.

Off the Ball is down just 1,000 to reach 54,000 although year on year the programme is up 4,000 listeners.

Newstalk has grown its overall listenership by 43,000 in the past year.  Chris Doyle of Newstalk said: “We are very pleased with Newstalk’s performance in the JNLR, today’s results show Newstalk has had audience growth consistently over the last 12 months with the station adding audience across the day from Newstalk Breakfast through to early evening.”

Ivan Yates
Ivan Yates

It's also good news for Today FM who has also seen a blanket increase in listeners across their prime-time schedule.

Ian Dempsey’s breakfast show has increased by 3,000 listeners since February’s JNLRs to 163,000, although year on year he is down 4,000.  Dermot and Dave, meanwhile, have increased their listenership by 1,000 to 162,000.

Muireann O’Connell, who took over comedian Al Porter’s slot on a permanent basis in January after he had stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment, is bedding in to her two-hours slot, gaining 3,000 since the last book to reach 101,000.  Fergal D'Arcy's two and a half hour long show is drawing a listenership of 104,000.

In the late afternoons Louise Duffy has increased her audience by 1,000 to 26,000.

CEO of Today FM, Keith McCormack commented: “This is a very strong performance for the station, an increase of 10,000 listeners daily and gains across every show from morning to night”

Over at RTE's 2FM, after several consecutive positive books, growth appears to be slowing slightly.  Breakfast Republic is holding fairly steady at 185,000, losing just 1000 listeners since the last book, while the Nicky Byrne Show with Jenny Green is down just 2,000 to 148,000.  Tracy Clifford, meanwhile, is down 4,000 to 129,000 listeners and Eoghan McDermott has gained 2,000 to reach 134,000. 

Radio presenter Eoghan McDermott. Photo: Mark Stedman
Radio presenter Eoghan McDermott. Photo: Mark Stedman

However, RTE’s youth station has seen an increase in listenership of 40,000 overall since this time last year.

“We’ve grown marginally in the 15-24 demographic but maybe things have got a bit safe recently and we need to look at giving the station a bit more edge,” station boss Dan Healy told

“Essentially the station blew up four years ago and we’re at a point now where the four main daytime shows are very strong – they’re the top 4 programmes in the country for 15-24 year olds.  People said you can’t really reach 15-24 year olds with radio anymore and we’re proving that to be wrong.”

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