Are Sky going to withdraw F1 channel from old ‘HD Pack’ subscribers this month? [UPDATED]

Please read the update at the bottom of this blog post.

Sky are to remove the Sky Sports F1 channel from the old HD Pack, affecting many of their current subscribers who watch the channel, The F1 Broadcasting Blog can confirm. Following myself pressing the Sky Help Team on Twitter, confirmation was received: “I’ve double checked that as it was news to me as well but the Sky Sports F1™ channel is being removed from the HD pack in September. We realigned the packages back before the start of the F1™ season and as a gesture of good will allowed existing HD Pack subscribers access to it but that comes to an end this month.” An exact date for removal, as of writing, is unknown.

Whilst this was expected to happen at some point as documented on the blog this year, it is still an extremely disappointing move. When the F1 channel launched, it was announced that the channel would be available to Sports or HD Pack subscribers, meaning that if you did not like the other Sky Sports channels, you could still watch the F1 channel via the HD Pack. This was a great option for many people who do not have any interest in football for example and therefore don’t wish to subscribe to the entire Sky Sports portfolio.

In April, Sky decided to make changes to the HD Pack options, and more importantly changed the ‘or’ to ‘and’. If you wanted to watch F1 in high definition you now, from April onwards, had to take the Sports and HD Packs. This raised the price to watch F1 in HD from £381.00 a year to £693.00 a year if you wanted to watch Formula 1 in HD. But at the time, back in April, Sky explicitly said “existing HD subscribers will continue to receive” the channel. Therefore, no one would realistically have to pay an extra £300.00 a year to the sport in HD. Until now. There have been rumours for a while, but it appears only now that things are turning into a reality. As of this month, coincidentally on the same day that Sky implement another set of price rises, those with the old ‘HD Pack’ will find themselves unable to access Sky Sports F1. Again, when exactly in September this will happen, is unclear. It is insanity. It is pricing customers out of the market, plain and simple. Most importantly, it is limiting the ability of the viewing public to enjoy watching Formula 1.

I can’t defend this change, in no way, shape or form. No doubt this is an attempt by Sky to get viewers to subscribe to the Sports Pack, which would lock them out of going over to BT. Again, the consumer loses. And the F1 fan loses, too. As for the viewing figures? Well, Sky’s viewing figures are trickling downwards, and BBC’s are increasing. If that doesn’t send out a powerful message, I don’t know what does. There’s several bad things about more people watching a highlights show, as it means less exposure for those teams who are struggling at the back of the grid, so there is a potential side effect, in my opinion outside of the Sky spectrum. If Sky wanted to make the F1 channel more accessible and affordable to F1 fans, they would change the pricing – drastically. But again, you’ve got more chance of seeing a flying pig. I guess these price increases and channel changes are what happens when you enter an overpriced £3 billion contract…

As always, your reaction below is welcome. When exactly in September will this happen? Your guess is as good as mine. But it appears things will definitely be changing this month. It will be interesting to see whether there is any backlash towards Sky as a result.

Note: The £3 billion mention above refers to the Premier League football contract that Sky and BT Sport have entered into – which is roughly £6 million per game. In comparison, the entire F1 season costs Sky and BBC a combined £55 million approximately.

Update at 14:50 on September 1st – The same Sky Help Team member on Twitter is now saying: “I’ve asked my colleagues here & double checked with people in the know – we cannot find anything to say that the Sky Sports F1™ will be removed from the HD Pack. I’m sorry for the confusion over this but we do not think you will lose the channel. I agree the information we have had for this has not been the best and I apologise for any inconvenience & confusion this has caused 😦 I hadn’t heard about the change but because it was sent in a reply email to a customer I assumed (my bad) that it would be correct. After further research on my part I can find no details on this and double checked with the Sky F1™ Twitter team and they haven’t heard this either. We usually get a heads up because of the volume of customers we interact with on a daily basis and no one here has seen or heard about this. The definitive answer I have is there are no plans to remove the Sky Sports F1™ channel from the HD pack.”

There’s several things that are concerning here. Firstly there is the quite obvious back tracking after the Sky member giving out inaccurate information this morning. Secondly, there are multiple different people quoting Sky e-mails which have been sent within the past week. The first on Wednesday morning, said, and I quote: “Let me firstly explain about our changes to the channels. A decision was made quite a few months ago that F1 would no longer be available through the HD package and would become part of the Sports package. It was agreed at that point, however, that F1 would remain on the HD package until September 2013. I understand that as a result of a change to your package, you have lost the access to the F1 channel prematurely.”

Then a separate person posted on here noting that a telephone conversation with Sky revealed near identical information on Friday morning. So clearly, there is some mis-information that Sky staff are releasing. Obviously there could be the other point that Sky do not want this information in the public domain. Sky never make official statements about these things, which make it incredibly difficult to get a definitive answer. Do I think this is the end of it? I would be surprised. I’m not sure whether Sky’s F1 Twitter team would know any better either, but who knows. It all appears to be a bit of a mess. Let’s see what happens from here onwards, and see if anyone does lose the Sky Sports F1 channel…

And also to finish off, apologies on my behalf too. What I thought was a definitive answer this morning clearly actually was the opposite. An omnishambles, I feel!

Update on September 5th – I have today received the following e-mail from Sky: “We have seen a small number of calls come into the estate looking for clarification on the availability of the Sky Sports F1 HD channel. Over the weekend various social media sites and forums were circulating rumours regarding legacy HD subscribers losing access to the popular sports channel. Although new subscribers must take Sky Sports to access the channel anybody that subscribed to HD prior to the launch of EE+ still continues to access the channel unless they decrease their HD package.”

The statement continued: “For clarity there is no plans to change this and Legacy HD subscribers will continue to receive this perk providing they don’t apply a cancellation to the HD mix.”

Update on February 4th, 2016 – Good news! If you want SkyQ, you can have it and keep the legacy HD Pack.

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23 thoughts on “Are Sky going to withdraw F1 channel from old ‘HD Pack’ subscribers this month? [UPDATED]

  1. A tenner says that unless you’ve contacted Sky over this, you won’t be told about it via a letter or anything, and people will think there’s something wrong with the channel when it mysteriously disappears. Luckily it won’t affect me, but doing it during the season is NOT sensible. December when the season is done, maybe, but not during the season. They’re certainly not making themselves popular.

  2. Sky couldn’t make any money out of the F1 channel with HD subscribers only, they needed about 125k new subscribers to break even, and they didn’t get anywhere close.

    So one assumes the move to the higher paying Sports subscription (when it happens) is to try and recoup some of their loses, and ultimately make a profit, however this will only work if all F1 HD subscribers transfer to Sports and more subscribers can be enticed along too.

    But as 2013 has seen a decline of about 20% in unique viewers to the Sky F1 channel, 2014 behind the Sports subscription is likely to see a similar drop … Which is more bad news for F1 and the teams.

  3. In the long run, NOW TV would be a lot cheaper. I don’t watch any other sport, so if you could get the timing right, you could watch a replay of qualifying & the race for £9.99 a weekend. Based on a 19/20 race season, and Sky getting 10 of those races, it would cost £99.90 a year – compared to £200+ a year.

    I know what I’ll be doing for next season.

  4. Do I think there will be a backlash? Yes. Will Sky care? No. As long as the money flows to the bigger F1 teams everything will be kept quiet just as it was when the BBC sold the rights to Sky.

    Guessing the change will happen after Monza (which is live on the BBC) as the following couple of races are exclusively on Sky.

    The audience is getting used to highlights and will increasingly see Sky’s coverage (which is still laced with adverts) as superfluous.

  5. I’m struggling to keep my interest up in F1 as it is at the moment, so there is no way I’m going to fork out for a full sports subscription, just to watch F1 20 days a year. If it was a separate subscription then yes I probably would do.

    Back to the BBC it would appear then.

  6. anyone want to guess on sky figures italy and singapore?

    my guess will be for non sky exclusive will be 250k

    sky exclusive will be around 500k

  7. As you say a mess, created by Sky’s lack of confirmation of anything firm and conflicting messages from customer services staff.

    My gut feel is that if the F1 channel is taken off HD pack customers, Sky F1 viewing figures will plummet further, potentially leading at some point to reduced Sky investment in F1 programming (will the likes of Brundle / Kravitz want to broadcast to small audiences ?) deterioration in quality, more adverts (potentially in mid race ?)……

    It will be interesting when the current UK TV contract comes up for renewal….

    Your admirable efforts in highlighting and pursuing this are appreciated.

    • Martin Brundle famously said at the Autosport Awards Dinner in 2011 (defending his move to Sky) that he wouldn’t care if only his Mum was watching as he just loved making money, sorry, Formula 1 TV.

  8. Glad to hear of the u-turn. My wallet is breathing a sigh of relief.

    I really do believe a move from the old hd pack to the sports pack could plummit the viewing figure numbers. My expierence is that most f1 fans aren’t really interested in football and it would be very unfair for us loyal customers who have been with skyf1 from the beginning to be forced onto a sports package. I’d rather they just increased my package price.

  9. WOW. If this is certain, and I concede it doesn’t appear to be just yet, I’ll be cancelling on the spot. I’m currently out of contract but even if I wasn’t I’d cancel anyway, that’s a change of material detriment to the consumer with no warning of the change whatsoever, a cut and dried infringement of SOGA. Statutory consumer rights are a marvellous thing.

    I know a couple of people I can make enquiries with about this, I wonder if we can collectively get some clarity on the situation…

  10. There have been so many different statements made by Sky employees, confirmations, denials and backtracking, that it seems likely Sky were going to strip F1 from HD only viewers, but had such a backlash that it’s been shelved for a while.

    I do find it rather distasteful that Sky seem to think the F1 HD channel people are paying for, is in fact only available as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ from Sky. You do not have to pay for gestures of goodwill from others.

  11. I came close to getting the hd pack this year glad i did not now.

    just sort of reinforces my view that i don’t want anything to do with them.
    Last time we had sky they use to sneak the price up a couple of quid each year but never take a channel away.

    may they should try it with sky Atlantic half way through season of game of thrones neat year.

  12. I contacted sky a few days ago about saving money on my package… they offered me the new package which the woman said was exactly the same as what i have now but £5 cheaper….when i came to watch the free practice on Friday the 20/09 my channel didn’t work…I contacted sky and he apologised and then informed me about the new package not including the F1 channel…I wasn’t told about this when changing packages…They now want me to pay for the Sports package to get the F1 Channel (I will never watch any of the other sports channels)

    As a massive F1 Fan I’m devastated to loose this channel from my package…If i was told about loosing the channel i would never have changed…I’m not paying sky for tv if they don’t sort this

  13. I was told last week that due to my loyalty to sky I get a new package that included f1 channel. After confirming I wouldn’t lose f1 I accepted. Imagine my utter frustration/ boiling rage when f1 channel disappears, it now transpires that I was mislead by sky (shock), they will not reinstate the channel without me paying for 5 channels of football that I won’t watch that will cost over £250 a year, or put simply £12 per race. Do I want to pay that and run the risk of watching another Newey led red bull fest? I think not.Well done sky for pricing me out of the market, despite the £1000 ish I pay them annually. I would of paid a fiver a month for the f1 channel but refuse to be forced to pay for a mass of pointless content, surprisingly I am just one of quite a few f1 fans who don’t watch football and as a result will be one of the many moving to bbc for f1 and bt for moto gp for my live Motorsport fix and rest of my tv. Sky and that stumpy 4 eyed reptilian money grabbing lizard man can kiss my rusty sheriffs badge

  14. Davo, if you were told that over the phone explicitly then call and complain to head of customer relations on their main number. Sky, like most companies, inevitably record all telephone conversations – so challenge them to prove that they promised you otherwise. Ultimately, as you’ve been mis-sold your package, IMO per the distance selling regulations you’re free to cancel immediately without penalty.

  15. F1 has disappeared today from the HD package. Could watch Bahrain FP1 and FP2 yesterday – told to buy the Sports package today when tried to watch FP3. Can’t stand football so won’t be doing that. BBC highlights it is for as long as they continue. When F1 finally goes from terrestrial TV as all the millionaires clearly want then so does my interest in the sport. Shame.

    • I’m assuming you were on the legacy HD pack, and have not made any package changes.

      If both of them things are true, give Sky a ring.

  16. Bought a 3d TV last week and to make the most of it I asked for the 3d channel. I was told I would have to change to the family pack but I wouldn’t lose any channels, I asked this several times.

    30 mins later I wanted to check what Sky F1 looked like in HD and it had gone. Phoned up and even though it was their mistake was told I no longer could receive it unless I took out Sky sports. I asked to speak to a supervisor, none were present.

    The next day I had lost my HD channels as well on Sky. Phoned them up as they hadnt called me back. Told that they can put me on a legacy pack as they have had lots of instances of this.

    Today 4 days later – I phone up as no manager had called to be told from the 6th of December everyone will be losing Sky F1 unless they are on Sky sports. However I cant find any notices saying this so I am beginning to think I was mugged off (again)

    Anyone else seen the notices or had emails from Sky?

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