Late Late Toy Show tops most-watched TV list in year dominated by rugby

RTÉ coverage of Dublin riot secures biggest news viewership of 2023, with 9pm bulletin on November 23rd the 11th most-watched programme

The Late Late Toy Show once again topped the list of the most-watched programmes on television in the Irish market in 2023, with Patrick Kielty’s first festive special reaching a final tally of 1,575,800 viewers on RTÉ One alone.

This is up from an audience of 1,532,000 the previous year, according to consolidated figures released by industry body TAM Ireland and research company Nielsen.

The figure makes last November’s Toy Show the fifth biggest programme on linear television this century, behind the 2020 and 2021 Toy Shows presented by Ryan Tubridy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s emergency address on March 17th, 2020, and the 2014 Toy Show, also hosted by Tubridy.

Kielty’s September debut on the standard edition of The Late Late Show also made the top 10 for last year, claiming ninth place with 833,100 viewers.


Live sport once again dominated the list of the most-watched television of the year. But with no major international tournaments in men’s soccer, rugby occupied many of the top spots, accounting for six of the top 10 programmes and 11 of the top 20.

Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup was in second place with 1,384,000 viewers on Virgin Media One. This is the highest ever audience in the history of the channel, which was previously known as TV3.

Ireland’s Rugby World Cup games against South Africa and Scotland on RTÉ2 and Virgin Media One respectively were in third and fourth place, garnering 1,254,000 and 1,200,500 viewers.

Housing in 2024: ‘several more years before we see the quantity of houses we need’

Listen | 31:21

The team’s Six Nations game against England was fifth with 1,019,800 on Virgin Media One in March, making it the most-watched programme in the first half of the year.

But GAA claimed its two traditional spots in the top 10, with the All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Kerry in sixth with 977,100 viewers on RTÉ2 in July, and the hurling between Kilkenny and Limerick in eighth with an audience of 838,700.

Coverage of the Dublin riot on November 23rd made RTÉ News: Nine O’Clock on that date the biggest television news programme of the year, with its viewership of 791,800 meaning it was the 11th most-watched programme overall.

RTÉ News: Six One the following day was in 18th place with 604,500 viewers, while the edition of Prime Time on the evening of the riot was November 29th with 526,500. Only the most-watched episodes of each programme are counted in the list.

Other notably popular programmes included Kin, RTÉ One’s Sunday night gangster drama, the most-watched episode of which was in 17th place with 611,300 viewers, and the broadcaster’s reliable heavy-hitter Room to Improve, which was 20th with an audience of 593,300.

The most watched soccer match was the Republic of Ireland’s European qualifier against France in March, which was seen by 600,900 people on RTÉ2, giving it 19th spot. There were two entries for the Fifa Women’s World Cup, with the Republic of Ireland’s match against Canada in 25th, securing 551,300 viewers and the team’s fixture against Australia in 31st with 510,500.

The numbers in the TAM/Nielsen chart relate to linear television only, meaning they exclude all Player views for both RTÉ and Virgin Media Television.

RTÉ broadcast 42 of the top 50 programmes, with Virgin Media Television airing the rest, seven of which were rugby games. The eighth was I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here, with the most-watched episode attracting an audience of 508,500, putting it in 34th place overall.

Among Irish homes with televisions, the average adult watches broadcast television on a TV set for two hours and 32 minutes every day, which was down just three minutes on the average in 2022.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics