Just over a year ago, it was announced that BSkyB had acquired a stake in Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland, with the two alongside Sky’s UK arm forming “Sky Europe”. At the time, I noted that it was pretty clear that Sky were looking towards the possibility of having a centralised production facility for Formula 1.
Since then, we have not heard anything on the subject with relation to Formula 1… until now. On Wednesday’s Midweek Motorsport podcast (located here), it was reported that Sky will indeed be merging their three Formula 1 production teams (UK, Germany and Italy) into “a single production house” in time for the 2016 Formula One season. In response to a question about the BBC’s lack of money, John Hindhaugh said “Sky have got no money because they overspent on the English Premier League and now they don’t have the money for Formula 1 either. They are having to bring in Sky Italy, Sky UK and Sky Germany into a single production house and I think that’s going to be really interesting next year.” Nick Daman followed up by saying that there is “arm waving” going on.
One key element in any change process is that the customer watching Sky’s programming should not notice that change, irrespective of country, it should be a seamless transition. For that reason, I do not expect a sudden clear-out of anyone who is working in front of the cameras. To remind readers, Andrew Griffith, who is Sky’s Chief Financial Officer said the following in July 2014: “The enlarged group will be able to share programming, channel brands and creative across territories, as well as to be more effective in the production of live cross-border events. An example is Formula 1, where all three broadcasters each currently send their own separate production capability.”
In my opinion, we can expect a more unified Sky Sports F1 channel across UK, Germany and Italy from 2016. Readers may have noticed some linkage already this season, earlier in the season, Sky Italia’s pit lane reporter conducted an interview with Ferrari’s drivers which aired in the UK, whilst Sky Deutschland’s Tanja Bauer appeared on the UK version of The F1 Show. Reading into the comments made by Hindhaugh, combined with what Griffith said last July, it looks like there will be more shared elements to proceedings, covering things such as opening titles, break bumpers and idents.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see The F1 Show changed so that the same programme airs across the three countries. Fox Sports in Australia already pick up The F1 Show it is worth remembering. There’s little benefit to Sky airing three separate F1 Show’s to a minuscule audience as it currently stands, from a cost perspective it looks like an easy saving to me. Furthermore, I think that the majority of the features that are produced will air in all three territories. The only difference being that three distinctive teams will link in and out, as is the case now, but can one production team do three live broadcasts at once? There are a lot of questions, none of which necessarily have answers here and now (in the public domain, at least).
Sky have not yet commented on this subject, and a request for comment concerning the future of the F1 channel in the UK went unanswered back in July. I have put another request for comment in to Sky, and will post further if I hear anything on the subject.
Update on October 3rd – Thanks to mlt11 on Digital Spy for this tip. Sky’s results presentation from July claims that they are already making £8 million worth of savings as a result of this, noting that the new production model was “rapid implementation in time for 2015 season”, with a “single production team, sharing facilities, back-up feeds and logistics”. I would expect them to make further savings for 2016, which I suspect that was what Hindhaugh was referring to.