Ivan Yates: Big Pair of Wexford Wellies to be Filled
5 min read.
If Ivan Yates was a drink he probably would be Bovril – some people love him, some people not so much. But you could never accuse him of being bland or run of the mill. As Yates nears the end of a rich and varied work life we thought we’d do a quick review of his career(s) to date.
He first came to national prominence in 1981 when he became a Fine Gael TD at the tender age of just 21, scaling the political heights to become Minister for Agriculture in 1994. He left politics in 2001 to concentrate on his family business, Celtic Bookmakers, successfully expanding the chain to become a significant nationwide player in the category.
While he had always dabbled in punditry in print media, his political career had also given him a real taste for broadcast media. In 2009, he took to the airwaves on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show – initially presenting alongside Claire Byrne, but subsequently formed an almost father and son type team with co-presenter with Chris O’Donohgue.
However, while his broadcast career blossomed, his business (Celtic Bookmakers) came under severe pressure from a number of international competitors upscaling their activity in Ireland and the changing nature of the online betting marketplace, forcing him to close the company in 2011.
After a short period of bankruptcy exile in Wales, Yates picked up where he had left off on Newstalk, once more presenting the Breakfast Show with Chris Donoghue. From here Yates took the ultimate step as the sole presenter of his own show on Newstalk’s evening drive time slot, The Hard Shoulder. During his time fronting the show he has taken his daily audience from an initial 139,000 to a healthy daily reach of 181,000 (JNLR Jan-Dec 2019). He overtook Pat Kenny (143,000 daily listeners) as the number one programme on Newstalk.
Having conquered radio, Yates next turned his attention to TV. In 2017 he commenced co-presenting The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper, pulling in an average audience of close to 300,000 a night, three nights a week. While the pair may have been great comrades on screen, they were rivals off-air as they are in direct competition with each other, with Cooper hosting Today FM’s evening drivetime show ‘The Last Word.’ Cooper’s show pulls in a lower audience of 149,000 listeners (JNLR Jan-Dec 2019), even as a programme that is half an hour shorter than Yates’. We can compare them on a more even basis by looking at their average quarter-hour audience and this shows that Yates just pips Cooper to the post at 64,000 listeners vs 62,000, so not much in it.
So all in all, one can understand why Yates might be looking to retire at this point and return to his roots, he’s certainly packed a lot into his working life to date. Enniscorthy’s gain is the media world’s loss – and in particular, Newstalk will be left with a big pair of Wexford sized wellington boots to fill in their drivetime slot.
While it might be a challenge for them to find a personality as big as Ivan, they might take the opportunity to consider someone that could have a broader gender appeal. The slot – like the station overall – currently has a marked male bias (66%:44% male ratio), perhaps the addition of another female presenter might help tip the balance.
We wish Ivan and his much mentioned (on-air) wife, Deirdre, a well-earned retirement.