The end of Sports Radio as we know it

Conversation about sports makes great radio because sports is all about sharp, informed opinions.  And God knows there is no shortage of those among fans of whatever game we happen to be talking about.

Sports is, after all, an obsession.  It’s why ESPN is the jewel in Disney’s crown. It’s why Sports stations are generally more profitable and impactful than high-rated.

But that obsession – those opinions – belong to everyone who has one, not only to the hosts and the handful of callers who can circumvent the screeners.

An excellent post in Harvard Business Review bemoans the tendency of incumbent media powerhouses to limit the access of consumers to the choice they want in the vain hope that they will simply settle for what’s on the media company’s plate.  Most evidence suggests, however, that your menu will never be enough for my tastes.

Ask the cord-cutters leaving cable for Netflix.

Ask the music fans leaving their one-time favorite station and making one of their own on Pandora.

And ask the Sports fans who can now talk to each other around you rather than through you.  Assuming you don’t do something about it.

From Chris Taylor’s great piece:

A…trend is building toward giving customers far more opportunity to express their views. And those who move to harness that collective voice have an opportunity to storm many traditional vertical markets. It’s already happening at scale in one of the most centralized industries in the world — sports broadcasting.

During the Super Bowl more analysis was delivered with more passion on Twitter (10,000 tweets per second near end) than any network announcer could hope to muster. Participation in the commentary was wide (many people posting) and deep (people posting many times), and continued well after the game. And the best analysis of the commercials was found on Twitter and Facebook, not necessarily the USA Today Ad Meter.

Advertisers were ready to cash in on these spontaneous conversations with prebuilt Twitter and Facebook campaigns set to launch at just the right moments in the game. And, not surprisingly, start-ups all over Silicon Valley are developing new ways to harness these conversations through technologies that enable sports consumers to express and share their own views independently of traditional network broadcasts. These start-ups are aiming to thrive by giving fans more control over how they watch sports, when they watch sports, and what sports they can see.

One example of this:

OnSports, a site for crowd-sourcing sports commentary. Regardless of what’s on the family TV, sports fans can follow and contribute commentary before, during, and after their favorite teams’ events, whatever they are.

And about whatever they want.

Sports is extraordinary social.  Games are viewed in bars and living rooms with friends and at parties.  Tons of folks call themselves sports fans. That’s not news.  But then why is Sports Talk presented more as Sports Listen? Why is there generally so little effort to facilitate the ability of sports fans to engage with the hosts and each other in the presence of the radio brands?

Sports radio should be not just about distributing audio of the games and hosting conversations with a smattering of listeners. And it should not just be about the personalities of genre stars.  It should also be a sandbox for sports fans to play together – with each other – in the presence of their favorite radio brands.

Check out how OnSports describes their mobile app:

OnSports is the first mobile sports channel, personalized just for you, powered by millions of other super fans. Every second, OnSports has new discussions, polls, photos, videos and scores, while the other apps are still showing yesterday’s news. Millions of new crowd discussions, polls, athlete tweets, professional photos, videos, scores and news, all updating every second. Plus, OnSports even alerts you about important content on your teams and players.

BE A SPORTSCASTER in seconds.  Want to run the discussion? Start and share your own sports discussion and get immediate reaction from the OnSports crowd. Include professional photos live off the sidelines, and share with friends via Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS. Gain fans, build your crowd, and compete with fellow sportscasters for weekly ranking!

In other words, OnSports puts the game in sports and let’s you play and interact with others who share your interests.  No sports radio station required.

Needless to say, the considerable loyalty and reach of sports radio stations can leverage tools like these to dramatically increase the impact of a sports radio brand on the lives of its consumers and fans.

Sports is inherently interactive.  Even if you are playing from the comfort of your couch.

Jump in.

* = required field
  • Cb00632

    Hope ordinary people can provide the awesome guest I hear daily on ESPN sports radio shows. People listin to sports talk cause they can’t get enough of these topics. It’s the same reason people watch sport center repeat 10 times a day. Sports radio won’t die because people like to hear opinions from people who know a lot more about the story than just what’s on the surface.

  • Okay I never said sports radio would die. I said if it doesn’t evolve according to the tastes and options of its audience it will diminish in relevance and take a back seat to what’s newer and shinier. And all needlessly. This is as much a part of sports radio as the voices on the air, and the sooner. broadcasters understand that the better
    Mark Ramsey

  • Cb00632

    Why is your article called “The End of Sports Radio”. At the end of the day no one cares about what Bill the truck driver or Eric the social worker have to say. It’s all about the personalities that carry these topics.

  • You left out the key part: “…as we know it.”

    You’re right, of course. But I don’t think that detracts one bit from my argument. My argument is not about the end of sports radio – it’s about the potential for sports radio to encompass the kind of interaction that today’s consumers are gravitating towards.

    Or the potential for sports radio to ignore this interaction and suffer the consequences.

    If you are in the business of gathering consumers around sports content, then you cannot forsake the interactive digital piece simply because you have stars on the radio.

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