Pat Kenny says goodbye to RTE to take on new role at Newstalk

The haters will hate, and the begrudgers will begrudge, but Pat Kenny’s million-euro move to Newstalk was a stroke of genius by the independent broadcaster, writes Paul Allen.

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” This no-nonsense philosophy underpinned Warren Buffett’s success throughout his career.

“Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks,” he said when quizzed about these words of wisdom, “I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

And when it comes to buying broadcasting gold at a bargain basement price, few offer the value Pat Kenny brings to the table.

Of course the whiners, will whine, complaining he was paid too much at RTE, never mind the fact Newstalk swooped in with what is believed to be a deal in excess of €1m.

But Newstalk will soon be laughing all the way to the bank.

He is the first superstar to make the leap from the RTE Mothership to a commercial radio station.

Sure, Ian Dempsey and Ray D’Arcy, both former RTE middleweights, made the move a long time ago, but neither had or has the pulling power of broadcasting heavyweight Pat Kenny.

The last listenership figures saw Dempsey’s Breakfast Show pull in 175,000 and D’Arcy’s mid morning talk show hit 243,000. However, both were blown out of the water by King Kenny’s 328,000.

This man, who hopefully will bring his own production team along with him, is not only going to revolutionize Newstalk, but commercial radio as we know it.

The show he is replacing, Tom Dunne’s middle of the road snoozefest, only manages a meager 55,000 listeners. Let’s face it, if you played the Angelus gong for that whole slot you’d pull in better figures.

The problem with much of Newstalk and other commercial radio stations is their schedules tend to be patchy. They have a mix of highly professional talent, interspersed with mediocrity.

In fairness, they sometimes strike gold and teach the national broadcaster how it should be done (the prime example being the revolutionary Off The Ball programme that fundamentally has changed sport radio in Ireland), but generally RTE rules the roost when it comes to the talent pool in Irish broadcasting.

However, this monopoly has now been blown wide open. And for good reason.

Just think of the hundreds of millions Ireland’s King of Broadcasting earned RTE over his 41 years. He will do likewise for Newstalk and that is why they are paying big bucks for him.

Advertisers and sponsors who would never have dreamed of investing their cash in Tom Dunne’s morning show, will now be beating down the door at Newstalk to get a piece of the action.

Of course public opinion will say he is getting too much money, but the fact is he is entitled to that money because of the multiples of that figure he will enable Newstalk to earn.

And while there are those that will foolishly believe RTE will be glad they no longer have to pay Pat Kenny’s salary, the dent in their advertising and sponsorship revenue is going to make them realise, and hopefully some members of the public, that they were paying him peanuts in the greater scheme of things.

Next on the Newstalk wish list could be Gay Byrne, to inject some much needed quality into the station’s weekend schedule. And you never know, Marian Finucane, could complete the coup.

The fact is, more will follow in Pat’s footsteps and the real winners will be the listeners and the independent radio market.

And after hearing on the grapevine rumors of a million euro advance that exchanged hands to smooth his transition, you’d better believe Pat Kenny is worth every single penny and then some.

Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR,