Why axing the classifieds is a sign of the changing audio landscape.
Earlier this year the BBC made the decision to axe the Classified Football Results from its broadcast schedule.
For the last 80 years at 5pm the football scores from up and down the UK would be read out loud on BBC radio and its axing resulted in much condemnation.
That criticism didn't come from the radio listening public, however, it came from the British print media who saw the removal of a broadcasting institution as an attack on our football culture.
The truth is that those who were most angry about the decision probably hadn't listened to the Classified Results in many years and their furious reaction was based much more on tradition and consumption.
The digital age has dramatically changed the way that sports fans consume their content across all mediums. The idea that someone out sits, listening to a long list of scores being announced on the radio, to find out how their team had done on a Saturday afternoon seems like fantasy in an age where every score, from every corner of the globe, is available within seconds in the device in our hands.
It's clear why the BBC made the decision. It also demonstrates the seismic shift in the audio landscape.
Over the last five years, (and certainly over the last 80 years) media has moved on and arguably audio more than any other medium. The depth of content now available across all channels is mind-boggling and in the modern climate of choice, niche is king. Something as "general" as the scores from across the Football League no longer fits the profile for what a fan wants. It is neither specific enough to be of interest or instant enough to fit modern consumption habits.
Purely from an audio perspective, the choice is immense. With every sport, discipline, focus, score line, angle or half-time pie covered in some way by someone - if not on traditional broadcast platforms then via internet radio or podcasts.
Podcasting may feel like "old" technology now but in truth, it is only just reaching maturity. Already 25% of the UK population say they listen to podcasts every week (Ofcom Podcast Survey 2022) and with 4-5% growth forecast over the next years, there is plenty of growth in the market yet.
Podcasting is the perfect example of celebrating a niche - like most of the digital space - the variety of shows presents a smorgasbord of football coverage and also a huge opportunity to reach audiences like never before.
I am often surprised about how many official rights holders are still to take up the chance to speak directly to the growing number of fans who consume their content in this way.
In the main, they have been very slow to realise the huge shift in consumption and take control of their own narrative with fans by creating their own audio products.
From both an engagement and commercial viewpoint it seems like a huge missed opportunity.
The power has shifted away from traditional broadcasters and it has created a space in which they can talk directly to their fans rather than sell that honour to the highest bidder.
Ben Wright, the Chief Commercial Officer at the EFL put it perfectly in an interview on Rory Sutherlands "On Brand" podcast:
“We’ve always been a wholesaler. We’ve sold our relationship with supporters via a 3rd party and they’ve paid us for that privilege. Now we’re moving to a hybrid between being a wholesaler and retailer and having a direct relationship with the consumer.”
Selling rights to cover your team/sport is always going to be an attractive (and lucrative) option but now more than ever, Rights Holders have the ability to talk to fans directly, build their own narrative and create a deep and direct engagement with fans.