Home News Radio Days: The Latest JNLR Survey

Radio Days: The Latest JNLR Survey

Oilbhe Doyle, Group Business Director, Carat

The latest book from the JNLR paints a picture of a robust commercial radio sector with a few surprises for some stations, writes Oilbhe Doyle.

While the centenary of the 1916 rising is well underway, that fateful year in Irish history also marked another important landmark in Ireland’s history – the first radio broadcast in Ireland, as the rebels transmitted a Morse code from the General Post Office.  A code of communication to rally troops and bring communities together. One hundred years later radio continues to have a rich place in Irish culture.

In spite of all the media choices, particularly the proliferation of digital, and a savvy, selective and restless consumer, radio as a medium has stood the test of time. And it’s free. In addition, Irish people are a nation of talkers and listeners; our appetite for every type of radio is still alive with 83% of all adults listening to radio daily according to the latest figures from the latest JNLR report which cover January 2015 through to December 2015.

While overall listenership is at 83%, down YOY (1%), this is the same fluctuating figure we’ve seen over the last three years, 2012 reaped the same result, not a major worrying slip but certainly something we will keep an eye on with the evolution of listening trends via streaming, podcasts and mobile apps.

The recruitment of a younger listener, for whom digital is their playground, should be one that poses a real challenge for Irish broadcasters.  And whilst the amount of time spent listening has dipped across most age categories (notably at -7% for the 55-64 age bracket, going from 4.97 hours daily to 4.6 hours daily), surprisingly, the youngest age cohort, 15-19 year olds saw a marginal increase of 1% bringing them to 2.43 hours of daily listening.


Overall listenership figures remain static YOY at 46% – it is when we dive deeper into programme slots we see the real gains and losses.

As expected, RTE Radio 1, one of the oldest operating Public Service radio stations in Europe, continues to be the leader of the pack. Whilst gaining an additional 64,000 listeners, this only nudges their market share up 1%, albeit a high percentage, now standing at 23.10%.

In 2014-15 saw 2FM launch a brand new schedule, out with the old Rick O’Shea, Colm Hayes, Tubridy and in with the new Tracey Clifford from Spin 103.8 and the Breakfast Republic Trio. New longer time blocks were also introduced.  It is still early days to see if this shake up has made real inroads for 2FM, however what we can see is that market share has remained relatively steady at 6.5% (6.4% in 2014, loss of 1,000 listeners).

Newstalk is now neck-on-neck with 2FM, with minor gains seeing it 1% ahead of 2FM in terms of daily reach. While both stations stand at a 6.5% market share, Newstalk should be pleased with the steady increases they have had over the last 5 years, in 2010 they stood at 4% market share.

Today FM, has only seen a 1% drop in daily reach, landing it at 12%,  and it has seen the biggest loss of listeners, at 23,000, giving it a 7.6% market share.

IRS+ stations, despite a loss of 10,000 listeners, is still in a strong position. With a 19.3% share of market, it is the 2nd in line to the leaders RTE (23.1%) and the stations within the group have retained their daily reach at 20%, further underlining that the power of local radio should not be underestimated.


Ryan Tubridy’s move from 2FM to Radio 1, D’Arcy’s move from Today FM to Radio 1, increased time blocks on 2FM means that it is a difficult book to measure key shows across on a year on year basis.  However, we can still deduce some trends in the key shows.

Breakfast – the heartbeat of the station’s schedule – shows Morning Ireland is still the most listened to breakfast show, with gains of 22,000 listeners. Running for over 30 years, Morning Ireland now has an average weekday listenership of 448,000. Ian Dempsey’s Breakfast Show whilst YOY has not gained, remains stable in this slot at 187,000. Newstalk’s reunification of Ivan & Chris in late 2013 has reaped the benefits, a 6,000 increase in listeners, bringing them up to a healthy base of 171,000.  Breakfast Republic has a healthy number of listeners too, standing at 181,000. This was, however, increased to a four-hour time slot in September 2015 meaning figures are non-comparable with previous full year book.

In the mid-morning slot, the most notable gain here is Sean O’Rourke on Radio 1 who has gained 33,000 listeners to bring him up to 331,000 listeners. We have almost seen the full year impact of the D’Arcy/Savage slot, however coming in at 183,000 listeners, it represents a 15% drop YOY. Pat Kenny’s much talked about move to Newstalk in September 2013 has undoubtedly boosted audience figures for the station, however his growth figures have stalled with this book showing a small drop YOY of 6% – finishing at  133,000 listeners.

Strong results for Newstalk’s controversial George Hook with gains of 19,000 listeners – across the dial the same time slot on Today FM sees Matt Coopers’ Last Word lose 22,000 listeners.

Elsewhere, D’Arcy is almost at a full year tenure in his new home on Radio 1, his slot is making steady gains with an 11% increase, crossing the line at 215,000 listeners.  Joe Duffy’s “Talk to Joe” slot, meanwhile, continues to secure its solid place on the Irish airwaves, with an increase of 9,000 – his final number coming in at an impressive 387,000 – the strongest of all afternoon shows nationally.


RTÉ Radio 1’s gleaming performance continues in the Dublin market, with an increase of 27,000 listeners the state broadcaster can boast the largest increase in audience in the Dublin market, which also solidifies its market share at 35% in the Dublin market – 24.1% higher than the second contender, the local station FM104. Today FM was the only other national station in the Dublin circle to record a gain, albeit a small one, with 2,000 listeners. Newstalk, meanwhile, recorded a drop of 5,000 listeners in the Dublin market but this has done little to rock its market share, dropping a mere 0.3%.

For the Dublin only stations, FM104 and Spin 103.8 continue their longstanding positions of FM104 in first place (10.9% market share) and Spin 103.8 in second place (6.9% market share).  98FM, while it has the 3rd highest market share of the local Dublin stations, continues to have steady declines and this book saw it shed 7,000 listeners.  Over the last 3 years, 98FM has employed enthusiastic new marketing and programming strategies but the loss of big names such as Dermot & Dave has stemmed these efforts, evident in the numbers (this slot down 8,000 listeners YOY).

Worthy of mentions in the IRS+ suite are Sunshine 103.8 and Radio Nova.  Sunshine’s rebrand and marketing campaign in 2015 has reaped the rewards with a market share of 4.3%. For its part,  Nova has carved a niche in the market with its very clear rock identity, while gains are small at 3,000, its daily reach has moved up a percentage to 6%.


In the last JNLR analysis, we saw erratic swings in the numbers for the Cork stations and this buoyancy continues between the three main contenders- Cork 96FM, C103FM and Red FM. In 2014 Cork 96FM had a 24.8% market share, Red FM in comparison stood at 14.7% market share – a whole 10.1% behind in share.  In what can only be described as a stellar performance in 2015, Red FM has not only increased market share but knocked Cork 96FM out of pole position and now sits as number one in the Cork Market at 22.3% market share, an impressive performance by any standard.

There is some good news for stations under the UTV umbrella, however, with Galway Bay FM remaining stable with 68,000 listeners and a healthy market share of 30.6%. Down south, meanwhile, Limerick Live 95FM has added 8,000 listeners and brought its market share up 5% to 40.6%.

Oilbhe Doyle is group business director with Carat.

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