Home News JNLR Results: Challenging Times for Irish Radio Sector

JNLR Results: Challenging Times for Irish Radio Sector

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John Clancy, Managing Director of Carat

John Clancy, managing director of Carat looks at the latest batch of figures from the Joint National Listenership Research too see what trends are emerging.

Radio listenership is recorded and released quarterly and there can be interesting fluctuations from quarter to quarter.  However when we have full years to compare against each other, as we do now with the release of the final quarter of 2016 data, we have an opportunity to take a longer view of the significant trends and developments in listenership.

The top-line figure of ‘listened yesterday’ for the total population of Ireland rarely changes by more than a percent, and indeed the 2016 figure of 82% bears this out (it was 83% for 2015).  The same can be said for aggregate ‘time spent listening to radio daily’, which holds steady at 4.2hrs for all adults (versus 4.15hrs in 2015).  Clearly radio continues to be an enduringly popular part of our media consumption in Ireland.  It’s when you dig into the more granular numbers related to franchise areas, specific shows and demographics that you get a sense of who is winning and losing the listenership battles, but also the future of the medium amongst younger, urban audiences.


National stations have had a solid set of figures when looking at this 2016 data against the most recently released rolling year data (Oct 15-Sep 16).  However, taking the longer view and comparing 2016 to the full year 2015 figures, we can see that Radio 1 has lost 20,000 daily listeners (-2%), 2FM has lost 29,000 (-7%), Today FM has lost 45,000 (-10%) and Newstalk has lost 26,000 (-6%).

Digging deeper into individual programmes we can see which programmes are winning and losing.  The single highest listened to radio programme in Ireland, ‘Morning Ireland’ on Radio 1, holds rock-steady year on year at 448,000 daily listeners.  Likewise the second most listened to show on Radio 1, the institution that is ‘Liveline’, holds it’s 387,000 loyal daily listeners.  It’s ‘News At One’ that has dipped slightly losing 14,000 listeners year on year, surprising in an eventful year of news and current affairs.

2FM is more of the problem child in the RTE stable and the losses here are in the valuable daytime segment from morning through to afternoon.  Breakfast Republic is down 27,000, ‘The Nicky Byrne Show With Jenny Greene’ is down 26,000 and ‘Tracy Clifford’ in the afternoon (having replaced Rick O’Shea, who moved to the weekend) is down 16,000 (these are all year on year figures).  On Today FM, the picture is similar but less extreme than 2FM.  Nonetheless year on year ‘Ian Dempsey’ and ‘Dermot & Dave’ are down 20,000 and 19,000 listeners respectively.  The ‘Dermot & Dave’ figures of 164,000 actually represent the performance of Anton Savage in that 9-12 slot, which he occupied in 2015, having replaced Ray D’Arcy.  Looking back to Ray’s 2014 figures of 215,000, you can see how far that time slot has fallen.  Finally, from a national perspective, Newstalk had a mixed performance year-on-year with Breakfast down significantly (losing 49,000) but both Pat Kenny (adding 14,000) and George Hook doing very well.


In pure ‘daily reach’ figures, the Dublin results show a really challenging market for national and local stations alike.  Radio 1 is still number one, but loses 13,000 year on year, as does Newstalk (down 16,000), Today FM (down 20,000) and 2FM (down 18,000).  FM104 is still a clear number 2 station in Dublin after Radio 1, but did lose 17,000 listeners year on year.  98FM bucked the trend, gaining 10,000 listeners – likewise Q102 which added 4,000 listeners.

Looking at individual programmes for the local Dublin stations, FM104 losses came from their daytime schedule, with the Strawberry Alarm Clock down 13,000 and the 10-3 show down 10,000.  98FM held pretty steady across their schedule, while Q102 actually added listeners to the Dave Harrington breakfast show.  Spin lost listeners across the board, with ‘Spin Hits with Steve K’ the hardest hit, down 19,000 year on year.


The battle for listeners in Cork continues – Cork 96FM has closed the gap in daily reach by losing fewer listeners year-on-year than Red FM.  96FM is down 7,000, giving them a daily reach of 26% whilst Red FM is down 16,000 with a daily reach of 28% (this was 32% in 2015).  In ‘market share’ of minutes listened between 7am and 7pm daily (a key radio measure), 96FM has held pretty steady at 19.3%, whereas Red FM has fallen to 20.7% from 22.3% year-on-year.  Given these are all year-on-year figures (2015 v 2016) it looks like 96FM is genuinely narrowing the gap and that these are real trends, rather than quarterly fluctuations.  Elsewhere WLR in Waterford has had a great year on year performance by any measure – up 2,000 daily listeners and nearly 3% market share (7am-7pm, minutes listened).  Galway has held firm year on year in most measures, while Limerick Live is the station that has really suffered, losing 12,000 listeners year on year (significant for this size franchise area).

John Clancy is managing director of Carat.

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