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Old February 20th 05, 06:21 PM
Mike Terry
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Default Ireland - Radio waves

20 February 2005

By Catherine O'Mahony

Relief, disappointment, shock and, in the lucky cases, elation. With these
kinds of emotions about, it could only mean the release of the most feared
and anticipated report of the year for the radio industry: year-end
listenership figures.

The 2004 Joint National Radio Listenership (JNLR) report inevitably marked
another blow for RTE's radio output, but it proved yet another vindication
for the country's increasingly thriving local radio stations.

Among the more startling developments was the news that 2FM's core audience
of 15-to-34-year-olds was down 11 per cent. Serious efforts to revitalise
the station's afternoon and evening schedules are now likely.

The good news for RTE was that the Radio 1 evening schedules have picked up,
the much-maligned Lyric is doing well - it doubled its share - and Morning
Ireland remains by far the most listened-to show on radio.

But the Radio 1 schedule looks to be generally stalled before lunchtime, and
only younger guns Rachael English and Ryan Tubridy had anything significant
to be happy about.

The latest book was bad news, not only for Marian Finucane - which was
hardly surprising given the recent news of her move to weekend radio - but
also for mid-morning stalwart Pat Kenny. His listenership was down 31,000 at
301,000, more than RTE's own internal trackings had predicted. Gerry Ryan,
meanwhile, gained 22,000 listeners on his 2FM show.

Kenny could argue that his lost ground was partly a knock-on effect of
Finucane's decline in listeners (26,000), but the chances are high that he
will be one of the losers in the planned autumn schedule 'tweaking' of Radio
1 in the daytime.

There were celebrations at a host of the newer commercial stations. Local
stations gained 21,000 listeners last year overall, and local or regional
stations raised their market share to 47 per cent from 46 per cent.

Dublin's Newstalk 106 advanced for a reach of 5 per cent (or 6 per cent of
adults), thanks to the new Eamon Dunphy show, which attracted 16,000

Overall, Dunphy's performance was seen as adequate, though it failed to
thrill. Initiative Media commented in a research note that many in the
industry would see this kind of result as "disappointing and a far cry from
his glory days on The Last Word''.

George Hook, in Newstalk's drivetime slot, lost some ground, with average
quarter hour listenership down 13 per cent at just 7,000.

Q102's spring re-launch gained it three per cent to 12 per cent, close to
the highs achieved in the early days of Lite and reversing its 2003 decline.

Its market share is now 9 per cent, up by half, with listeners now staying
with the station for an average of an hour and 55 minutes a day.

While Q102 is supposed to be targeting over-35s, it has doubled its share
among 15-to-34-year-olds, to 10 per cent.

Most dramatically of all, music station Spin FM almost doubled its
listenership to 9 per cent. It is now second after FM104 in the
15-to-24-year-old age group. Worryingly for the competition, it's the
biggest Dublin station at night for under-34s.

Some media buyers believe Spin has taken share from 98FMwhich lost 35,000
listeners in the youth audience.

However, Tom Wright, the station's chief executive, said he believed his
main battle was with FM104 and Q102.

"There's a perception out there that we're all about dance music, but it's a
bit of a misconception," he said.

Wright attributed Spin's success to "continual music re-assessment and
clever, direct marketing''.

In the second half of last year, Spin was into double figures on reach, at
10 per cent of adults.

"This is one of the most dramatic books of recent years," said Dave Harland,
chief executive of Initiative Media.

"Effectively, Spin is challenging all media planners and advertisers to
reappraise the structure of their Dublin radio plans."

In the south-east, Beat boosted its listenership to 19 per cent, for a
market share of 8 per cent. Kieran McGeary, chief executive of Beat, said
six-month figures showed the station with reach of 20 per cent, which is
close to 2FM's 23 per cent.

"We're already beating 2FMin our core target market of 15-to-34-year-olds
and these six-month figures show that we're now on target to overtake them
in the all-adults demographic," he said.

At Today FM, Ian Dempsey's apparent share collapse was unfairly reported in
some circles. Dempsey's show is shorter now, so direct comparisons of his
listenership are not possible. In fact, the average per quarter hour
listenership on his show was up 3,000 at 83,000.

On this comparative basis, however, Ray D'Arcy has been the big winner. His
profile has been boosted by his TV appearances and he is now attracting an
average quarter hour listenership of 113,000, a huge leap from 88,000. He is
now eclipsing Dempsey as the commercial station's biggest draw.

It was a poor book for Matt Cooper, whose efforts at the Last Word slot are
still faltering. Year-on-year his reach is down 4,000, which is seen in the
industry as a disappointing result.

Overall, Today FM will be pleased to have significantly boosted its Cork
listenership in particular, after making a determined effort in the region
in the past year.

Cork remained a competitive place for radio, with 96FM remaining dominant
but continuing to lose some ground, as did RedFM. RTE 1 and 2FM also gained
listeners in the area.

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