The Radio Room

Weekend Listening on Radio: Tuning in or checking out?

"Listening habits are different at the weekends but it doesn’t mean they’re not tuned in! In fact it has been suggested that weekend listeners are perhaps even more likely to react to advertising at the weekends as they are in a more relaxed frame of mind..."



I was flicking around on the Irish Radio Player app last Sunday morning and I came across Mario Rosenstock’s Sunday Roast on Today FM. (Filling in for Mario that day was one of favourites, Ian Dempsey – what a buddy system this pair have!) The format was smart, well-produced and most importantly, it kept me engaged. It had everything a radio show should be.

It got me thinking… everyone in advertising talks about midweek listening. Clients request midweek-only all the time. So I thought I would delve a little more and share some facts about weekend listening.

First of all, I had a look at THE BIG 4 – The 4 mainstream Nationals (Sorry Lyric, you’re lovely but for the purposes of mass audience adult radio, I’ve left you out of this one)

The Big 4:

 Daily reach: Mon-FriDaily reach: SaturdayDaily reach: Sunday
RTE Radio 1869,000-24%-26%
RTE 2FM399,000-23%-35%
Today FM412,000-34%-49%

RTE Radio 1 basically beats all stations in Ireland in all demographics bar the under 25’s so leaving them aside for now, there really is very little between the 3 stations that follow. Today FM, now in its 21st year, holds onto the number 2 position in Irish Radio (after RTE Radio 1). However, RTE’s youth music station 2FM has almost 40,000 more listeners on Saturdays and 50,000 more listeners on a Sunday… nothing too shabby about that weekend performance! (Source JNLR July 2017 – June 2018)

There are 3 weekend shows on Irish Radio reaching over 300,000 listeners; all on Radio 1:

  1. Marian Finucane on Saturday (11am-1pm, 329,000 listeners)
  2. Marian Finucane on Sunday (11am-1pm, 321,000 listeners) and
  3. The Business (Sat 10-11am, 307,000 listeners)

Outside of that; you will likely pick up daily audiences on a Saturday or Sunday of between 90,000 to 140,000 on National Radio Stations and audiences in the region of 40,000 tuning in to their Local Radio Station.

Where’s the value?

From a commercial point of view, you are of course going to pay handsomely to advertise on the top National weekend shows, based on an individual spot-buy. This is why, unless you are only looking at one show, it is much better value to buy a package with an element of the top show(s) but buffer with some spots outside of that. You will still get a great audience reach; in the demographic you’re targeting; but without the price tag!

The winning weekends…

So does any station buck the trend and beat weekday listenership on Saturday or Sunday? In a word, no! Who comes close though? Or at least minimum fall off once the weekend comes round? Lyric and 2FM are the two National winners. Lyric drops by 21% on Saturdays and 19% on Sundays. 2FM falls by 23% on Saturday and 35% on Sunday (which sounds like a lot but with Today FM’s Sunday audience showing a 49% decrease from weekdays, and Newstalk down 48%, weekends on 2FM are looking strong).

Regionally, Spin South West only lose 7% of their audience on Saturdays and iRadio North West are down 15% come Saturday so these 2 stations are holding their audience really well at weekends too. Local radio stations when combined (That’s local stations outside of Dublin and Cork) stay really strong across weekends with a 9% listened yesterday figure on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Don’t just take my word for it… 

So what’s my point? I’m aware that this could be read as me being a negative Nora when it comes to weekend advertising. On the contrary, I’m more of a positive Patsy myself so here’s the good news… Simpified!

7 days is better than 5! (mostly… There are a million ways to target an audience, but I’m generally speaking; and presuming we’re trying to reach as many listeners as possible without driving the frequency too low.) I took to the latest JNLR Listenership data to see if the figures carry the same sentiment.

I chose 3 stations at random,

  • 1 National
  • 1 Local
  • 1 Regional

I then ran audience reach and frequency figures for all 3 stations based on a basic, all-adult, 21-spot package (with 15 spots in Prime Time, 7am to 7pm).

All run against the latest JNLR listenership data.

See for yourself how weekends add to the audience reach (the number of times each listener hears the ad drops slightly on a couple of the runs, but in my mind not enough to warrant leaving weekends out)

StationDaysAudience ReachFrequency

Mon – Fri:

Mon – Sat:

Mon – Sun:







Cork’s Red FM

Mon – Fri:

Mon – Sat:

Mon – Sun:







Beat 102-103

Mon – Fri:

Mon – Sat:

Mon – Sun:







So there you have it. Weekend listenership will always chase the tail of the big dog on midweek – but make no mistake, unless you have a very specific, targeted plan for midweek-only, there is no reason to leave out weekends. Irish Radio editorial teams continue to develop new shows (Like Mario’s Sunday Roast) and new talent (like Stephen Byrne on 2FM) every weekend. Listening is strong in general (especially on Saturdays) and tracks very well against other countries and their listening habits. Pretty much the same demographics that tune in Monday to Friday are tuning in at the weekends too (albeit less of them).

Don’t just stick with Monday to Friday programming for your commercial plans. Listening habits are different at the weekends but it doesn’t mean they’re not tuned in! In fact it has been suggested that weekend listeners are perhaps even more likely to react to advertising at the weekends as they are in a more relaxed frame of mind – therefore less likely to ‘flick’ when the ad break comes on – and more likely to soak up your message. Food for thought as you tune in this weekend…

Thanks for listening!




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