From Irish Times:

Relief all round at Montrose as Toy Show remains an audience phenomenon in post-Tubridy era, and new host proves competent, charming and funny

He did not mess it up. The ratings data suggests something closer to the opposite: he smashed it.

For his debut Late Late Toy Show, Patrick Kielty leaned into a trapped adult vibe to wield marshmallows, sombreros and remote-control Barbie cars as RTÉ‘s young cast did much of the talking, most of the dancing and all of the singing.

Not only did he survive his first Toy Show, he made it on air for his BBC Radio 5 Live show at 9am on Saturday, when the tightness of his Elf leggings and the “fever dream” of his stint as a Ken doll was still on his mind.

But if he had been genuinely tense about his first crack at the Toy Show, he shouldn’t have been. The critics’ verdict was that Kielty was a more understated, less hyper anchor than Ryan “the toy man” Tubridy and that this was perhaps no bad thing.

None of the kind words would have mattered a jot to RTÉ executives, of course, had viewers deserted what has long been a ratings juggernaut for the broadcaster and actually became even more of one during the Tubridy era.

Would a more low-key Toy Show host deliver more low-key audience numbers for RTÉ?

The short answer is no. To be clear, the long answer is “no, absolutely not”, though a more precise parsing of the figures might invoke that old Magic 8 Ball classic, “reply hazy, try again”.

The RTÉ Player statistics – a handsome 550,000 streams from a record-breaking 147 countries – tell an attractive story of their own.

But let’s look closer at the average audience for Friday’s live broadcast on RTÉ One: some 1,461,800 people watched Kielty and a stellar cast of young elves on the night.

This would place Kielty’s first Toy Show 12th on a ranking of the audiences for the last 15 Toy Shows. But that’s not comparing like with like, as all the other figures are consolidated, meaning they include seven days of catch-up viewing.

For instance, Tubridy’s final Toy Show eventually reached a consolidated audience of 1,532,300, but was only watched by 1.33 million live on the night.

Incredibly, Kielty’s final tally appears on track to overtake many if not most of the audiences garnered by Tubridy.

The two most-watched Toy Shows this century are the 2020 and 2021 editions, which were both watched by more than 1.5 million on the night and rose to a consolidated audience of 1,716,800 and 1,707,800 respectively.

But although RTÉ said 1.72 million watched the Toy Show over the weekend, that doesn’t mean Kielty has already overtaken or will definitely overtake 2020 or 2021.

The figures for these Covid-era shows, released by industry body TAM Ireland in its annual top 50 countdowns, don’t include RTÉ+1 views or the substantial Sunday afternoon repeat audience that RTÉ wrapped into its number for Kielty. After just two days of catch-up viewing, his television audience appears to be sitting behind about four of the Tubridy shows – but, crucially, with five more days of catch-up to be counted.

It is, by now, a well-established fact that the Toy Show is an audience-luring behemoth without parallel: some 15 of the 17 most-watched programmes on Irish television this century are the last 15 Toy Shows.

When Kielty recently recalled to The Irish Times how the head of Fox quizzed him about the “phenomenon” backstage at a Los Angeles television show presented by his wife Cat Deeley, you can bet it was the glowing linear broadcast numbers that sparked the executive’s interest, not the virality of its social media clips or the sheer ingenuity of the toy-testing concept.

Notably, the Toy Show was an audience magnet long before Tubridy took a professional interest in Christmas jumpers. But the show has also grown since 2009 and at least some of that growth can be credited to Kielty’s predecessor.

Viewership of The Toy Show jumped from 1,198,700 in 2008, the last year it was presented by Pat Kenny, to 1,388,200 in 2009, this being the first and second-least watched of all the Tubridy Toy Shows. The least watched was in 2017, when the consolidated audience was “only” 1,345,700 – that year, the show ran on well past midnight, dragging down the live average.

Historical ratings information is hard to come by – research firm Nielsen, which compiles the figures for TAM Ireland, only began doing so in the Irish market in 1996 – and the numbers, which are not publicly available but must be released by a TAM Ireland member, have only been sporadically reported ever since.

But when Tubridy’s audience rose in 2011 to what was then his record high of 1,528,800, RTÉ said the ratings had been the highest since 1994, meaning even by year three he was easily outperforming Kenny’s decade of Toy Shows and the latter years of Gay Byrne’s reign, too.

Population growth helps with some historical comparisons. But the Tubridy Toy Shows were also remarkable for increasing their linear audience over time and during a period when linear audiences across the industry, including for The Late Late Show itself, were going backwards.

Amid the continuing splintering of the media market, Tubridy had one external factor going in his favour: his tenure coincided with both the rise of Twitter (now X) for real-time commentary and the advent of online publications that merrily revelled in reinventing the Irish culture of their childhoods as a vehicle for “kidult” nostalgia.

But let’s not succumb to total revisionism. Tubridy’s rapport with kids – an ability to bring out the best in them without talking down to them – and his frenetic enthusiasm for both marshalling the chaos and hitting the sentimental notes undoubtedly cemented the Toy Show brand too.

With a laconic mode of speech and an aptitude for just the right sort of silly behaviour, Kielty is poised to extend its life. Indeed, anyone who had heard his weekly 5 Live item Kids Take Charge would have been confident beforehand that he would make a competent, charming and funny Toy Show host.

But the television ratings suggest something even better for RTÉ: he’s a popular one.