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BBC pulls its podcasts from Google Podcasts and Assistant

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It says Google isn’t providing enough audience data

General Views of BBC Broadcasting House Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

The BBC has removed its podcasts from the Google Podcasts app and is also making them inaccessible to Google Assistant — and by extension, Google Home speakers. The broadcaster published a blog post taking issue with Google’s tendency to steer users who search for a podcast toward its own app “rather than BBC Sounds or other third-party services.” (The BBC Sounds app is unavailable outside the UK.)

Kieran Clifton, the BBC’s director of distribution and business development, said the public service company is “not comfortable” with Google reducing a listener’s choice in this way and has expressed those concerns to Google directly. “We asked them to exclude the BBC from this specific feature but they have refused,” Clifton said. “We don’t like removing our content from services and certainly don’t do it lightly — but unfortunately until Google changes the way they look at this, for the good of listeners, our podcasts will not be available on some of their services.”

Clifton claims the BBC wants its programs easily accessible on all platforms globally. But it really sounds like the disagreement here is over listener data. Clifton criticizes Google for making it difficult for the BBC to obtain audience data about its podcasts. He says this prevents the BBC from personalizing its services and ensuring it’s identifying “gaps in our commissioning to ensure we’re making something for all audiences.” Metrics have been a point of contention between podcast producers and the platforms that bring them exposure.

This could also be seen as another example of podcast makers pulling back their content for the benefit of their own apps and services. Just today, Spotify announced plans to buy Parcast, the streaming music company’s third podcast-focused acquisition of the year. Spotify aims to evolve its current podcast features into something much more ambitious — and exclusive shows are part of that plan.

The BBC is continuing discussions with Google to reach a resolution. In the meantime, it’s blocking both Google Podcasts and Assistant simply through a robots.txt file, something that Google abides by — but that’s not true of many third-party podcast apps.