Listenership figures to provide Lite relief

By Will Goodbody

Management at Lite FM will spend Tuesday poring over the Joint National Listenership Review (JNLR) figures when they are published. Last Thursday Lite FM, the easy-listening local radio station for the Dublin area, celebrated its 12th week on air.

Although Lite FM, dubbed “Polite FM” by some, will not be included in the JNLR figures, the station’s management will be looking closely at the listenership figures for the Dublin area.

The data for the 12 months from July 1999 to June 2000 should provide vital clues as to what has been happening in the competitive Dublin radio market.

Scott Williams, general manager and morning talkshow host on Lite FM, said he is confident that the station is doing well: “We are absolutely delighted with the level of response we have had.”

The station spent £500,000 on its start-up advertising campaign — money well spent, according to Williams. At the end of its first six weeks on air, research carried out by Lite FM in Dublin found that 70 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds, 52 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds and 48 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds were aware of a new radio station called Lite FM.

Lite FM aims to capture 10 per cent of the Dublin audience by the end of the year.

Although it will not be clear how well they are doing until the next round of JNLR figures are released in October, the station claims its own tracking figures show it is well on the way to achieving this target.

Industry sources seem to agree. Liam McDonnell, chief executive of All Ireland Media, says that anecdotal evidence suggests that a very broad mix of people listens to the station and it would seem that it is trying to fulfil its remit to the purest extent.

However, McDonnell warned that although Lite FM’s projections seemed reasonable “the ramp up on any new radio station is always longer than any business plan projects”.

Its use of creative media has meant the station’s visibility has been very high and some large companies have taken the chance and advertised with Lite FM, despite the absence of any firm figures on how they are doing, said Ann-Mari Simonidis, research director with Initiative Media.

She said, however, that they would need positive JNLR results in October before the big advertisers start to use the station more.

Another media buyer said she believed Lite FM was holding its own in terms of its audience share. She said her clients had been interested in using Lite FM from day one and that she would be surprised if it was not doing very well. 98FM would be the radio station worst hit by Lite FM’s success, she said.

Another group of people who will be analysing the JNLR figures closely will be those involved in the Dublin rolling news and current affairs station, News Talk 106.

News Talk 106 was granted a speech-driven licence for the Dublin area at the same time as Lite FM and Spin FM won their licences in October 1999.

The station was originally due to start broadcasting at the end of March but this date was postponed following delays in the finalising of the contract with the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC) and the withdrawal of a number of shareholders in the station last March. The IRTC said it is still finalising the contract details with the station.

The licence granted to Spin FM is still the subject of a Supreme Court appeal, which it is expected will be heard in October.

© Sunday Business Post