Battle of airwaves to hot up in autumn

SOME of the best-known names in Irish radio are gearing up for a major battle of the airwaves this autumn as Ryan Tubridy aims to boost flagging audiences for 2FM following the death of the station’s flagship presenter, Gerry Ryan, earlier this year.

The latest results from the Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) show that Tubridy is facing a serious challenge to hold onto Ryan’s audience as one of his main rivals, Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy was one of the few household presenters not to suffer any decline in listeners over the past year.

The vast majority of the most popular weekday shows on national radio stations — Radio 1, 2FM, Today FM and Newstalk — recorded a fall in listeners.

2FM has shed 16,000 listeners over the past year for the slot presented by Ryan which was hosted on a temporary basis by Colm Hayes and Lucy Kennedy since his sudden death last April.

Ryan’s show has also been replaced for the first time ever by D’Arcy as the most popular radio programme among the key 20 to 44-year-old market.

However, the Late Late Show presenter was also one of the rare exceptions to boost his audience size — increasing the numbers tuning into his recent morning show on Radio 1 by 12,000 to 351,000.

Tubridy is set to move to Radio 1’s sister channel next month as the key element of a plan by 2FM’s management team to stem a steady decline in the station’s audience sizes in recent years.

Tubridy will hope to retain the vast majority’s of Ryan’s faithful followers as well as bring across some of his own listeners to 2FM when his new show goes on air from August 23.

However, in addition to D’Arcy, he is also likely to face stiff competition from his own direct replacement on Radio 1, John Murray who currently presents The Business as well as being co-host of Morning Ireland.

Overall, the latest JNLR figures — which cover the period from July 2009 to June 2010 — reveal that audiences are continuing to tune out from radio.

In particular, news and current affairs programmes like Morning Ireland, News at One, Liveline and Drivetime on Radio 1; Today FM’s Last Word and Newstalk’s Breakfast Show all experienced notable decreases in listenership.

The country’s most popular radio programme, Morning Ireland, shipped 30,000 regular listeners to fall back to 431,000, while The Last Word’s presenter, Matt Cooper, suffered the biggest drop of any prime time presenter — down 28% or 56,000 listeners to 155,000.

One of the few to buck the trend was Newstalk’s Right Hook, hosted by George Hook, whose audience grew by 7,000 over the past 12 months to 117,000.

Despite presenters like Joe Duffy, Derek Mooney and Mary Wilson all losing listeners, an RTÉ spokesperson said the national broadcaster had maintained a clean sweep of the top ten most-listened-to programmes in Ireland. Only Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy and Ian Dempsey manage to break into the Top 20.

In contrast to the general downward trend, RTÉ’s weekend programmes recorded notable increases in audience size.

Marian Finucane again showed her enduring popularity among radio audiences, increasing figures for both her weekend shows, while Playback also added 25,000 listeners.

Overall, Radio 1 and 2FM suffered small decreases in market share, while Newstalk, Today FM and Lyric showed no change.

All the multi-city and regional stations, including Spin South West and 4FM, recorded slight increases in market share with the exception of Beat 102-103FM which suffered a small decrease.

FM104 held on to top spot in the highly competitive Dublin market, while Spin 103.8FM and Q102 also recorded gains.

Audience sizes for the two Cork stations, Cork 96FM/C103 and Red FM remained largely static.

Donegal’s Highland Radio remains the country’s most popular local radio station on a per capita basis.

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