Sky Sports unveils new look, but how much money could consumers save?

Sky Sports have formally unveiled a new look to their channels, which takes effect from Tuesday 18th July. The new look comprises of the following ten channels (channel numbers apply for the Sky platform):

  • 401 – Sky Sports Main Event
  • 402 – Sky Sports Premier League
  • 403 – Sky Sports Football
  • 404 – Sky Sports Cricket
  • 405 – Sky Sports Golf
  • 406 – Sky Sports F1
  • 407 – Sky Sports Action
  • 408 – Sky Sports Arena
  • 409 – Sky Sports News
  • 121 – Sky Sports Mix

After 23 years, the Sky Sports numbered branding of 1 and 2, expanding in more recent years to cover 3, 4 and 5, will disappear in the early hours of next Tuesday morning, with ‘themed’ channels replacing them.

The main change for Sky’s customers is the pricing structure, which allows consumers to pick the channels they want to view. One Sky Sports channel is available for £18.00, two channels for £22.00 and three channels for £26.00 a month. The complete Sky Sports pack continues to cost £27.50 per month with the HD Pack adding a further £6.00 per month.

Sky Sports Main Event, which highlights the best live action the pay-TV company has on offer, is only available as part of the full sports pack, whilst Action and Arena are part of one channel ‘set’.

Sky claims in their press release that Premier League football is available for “as little as 60p a day”, which is disingenuous at best. This figure conveniently fails to account for the compulsory Original Bundle which customers require to access the Sky Sports portfolio of channels, increasing the cost per day to at least £1.30 a day. Unfortunately, respected broadsheets have picked up and ran with the quoted lower figure.

Overall, if you are a sporty guy or girl who likes to watch a range of sport, chances are you are going to stick with your current offering. For example, if you like football, cricket and F1, you would ‘pick and choose’ channels, eventually ending back where you started. So, the reality is that the table I posted in my calculations piece in March is likely to stay the same:

Option SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Bundle – Original £22.00 £22.00
Bundle – Box Sets £38.00 £38.00
Bundle – Sky Sports £27.50 £27.50 £27.50 £27.50
Sky Sports HD Pack £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £49.50 £71.50 £61.50 £83.50
Yearly Cost £594.00 £858.00 £738.00 £1,002.00
One-Off Installation Cost £15.00 £15.00 £60.00 £60.00
Yearly Cost £609.00 £873.00 £798.00 £1,062.00

The only real gain here is for readers that like Formula 1 and no other sport. For existing customers, this is simply an artificial change and nothing more. For new customers interested in a specific sport, there are some genuine choices here. A customer interested in just Formula 1 and no other sports will save £114.00 across the year.

Option SD
Sky Q 1TB Box
HD
Sky Q 1TB Box
UHD + SD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
UHD + HD all
Sky Q 2TB Box
Bundle – Original £22.00 £22.00
Bundle – Box Sets £38.00 £38.00
Sky Sports F1 only £18.00 £18.00 £18.00 £18.00
Sky Sports HD Pack £6.00 £6.00
Sky Q Multiscreen £12.00 £12.00
Monthly Cost £40.00 £62.00 £52.00 £74.00
Yearly Cost £480.00 £744.00 £624.00 £888.00
One-Off Installation Cost £15.00 £15.00 £60.00 £60.00
Yearly Cost £495.00 £759.00 £684.00 £948.00

Across the year, it is a lot of money that you could save by going with just Sky Sports F1, although I suspect a lot of consumers will end up with either two channels or the whole pack. The risk for Sky is if subscribers who only have a casual interest in Formula 1 and love football choose to lower their subscription so it only the Premier League and Football channels.

From a viewing figures perspective, the move might turn out badly for F1 in that the number of hardcore Premier League football fans heavily outweighs the number of hardcore Formula 1 fans. I do not expect any major fluctuation in audiences, but it is something to monitor. Personally, £40.00 a month is still a high entry price and can consumers justify paying £18.00 for just the F1 channel?

In terms of competition between Sky, Virgin Media and BT, it looks like Virgin Media are offering (or being forced into) a ‘all or nothing’ approach with its customers, which means that the entry price on Sky is now significantly lower than Virgin Media – again this assumes that you are only interested in a limited range of sports. I calculated an entry price of £635.99 for Virgin Media in March, so Sky undercuts that by £140.99.

Overall, the move by Sky whilst good, will probably only influence the decision-making for a small proportion of their customer base. Had the entry price for Sky Sports been lower, I suspect the changes in customer habits might have been more drastic. I do not see people thinking that “£18 for one Sky Sports channel per month” is a bargain.

Also, if you are currently a cord cutter and choose to get your viewing via ‘other means’, then I do not think Sky’s latest pricing strategy will change your mindset. It is, however, a step in the right direction for the satellite pay-TV broadcaster.

Note from Dave – It is possible that there may be some minor adjustments to this once we see the small print, if so, I will update this post.

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Formula 1 to live stream London demonstration run online

Formula One Management (FOM) are to live stream London’s F1 street demonstration online, the Commercial Rights Holder has confirmed.

The demonstration will be streamed on the Formula 1 website and their YouTube channel. The event, which takes place on Wednesday evening (12th July) from 18:00 to 21:00 UK time, will also be broadcast live across Sky Sports’ portfolio of channels.

It is the first broadcast of this magnitude that FOM, now under the control of Liberty Media, have streamed online. The event is taking place at London’s Trafalgar Square. Jennie Gow, Jake Humphrey, Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan, Natalie Pinkham, Rochelle Humes and Sam Power forms the extensive presentation line up. The event will feature “appearances from Formula 1 stars and legends as well as a number of celebrity guests.”

Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1 said: “F1 Live London is the most striking example yet of Formula 1’s evolution this year. We feel there is no better way to celebrate the exciting season we have had so far than to have this landmark event in London on the eve of the British Grand Prix. This is all about giving our fans the opportunity to get closer to the teams, cars and drivers they love.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “F1 Live London is a brilliant opportunity to show young people in our city that learning about science and engineering can provide them with fantastic careers, and can be great fun. It will also bring fans of all ages and backgrounds together to celebrate a sport they are passionate about and in which Britain is a world leader.”

Austrian Grand Prix viewing figures tumble year-on-year

Just two weeks after a season high, the Austrian Grand Prix struggled to attract viewers compared with last year’s running, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Sky Sports’ exclusive live coverage of the race aired to an audience of 588k (7.2%) from 12:00 to 15:30. This is a poor number, lower than Monaco and Baku despite both events being non-exclusive. Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged just 390k (4.8%), with 197k (2.4%) watching the simulcast on Sky Sports 1.

Sky’s coverage dropped on a third compared to their 2016 average of 866k (9.9%). The total television audience was down slightly yesterday year-on-year, but the audience share from 2014 to 2016 has always been around 9 percent, so yesterday represents a drop of 2 percentage points.

Highlights on Channel 4 were not immune to the audience drop. Their programme, which aired from 17:45 to 20:00, averaged 1.75m (11.7%), a drop of half a million viewers compared with 2016. The figures are worrying considering that this is the stage of the season where momentum should be building before the Summer break.

The combined average audience of 2.33 million viewers is down 26 percent on last year’s combined audience of 3.15 million viewers. It is the first time the Spielberg round has dropped below three million viewers since its return to the calendar.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying across Sky Sports 1 and F1 was also down year-on-year in both audience and share. Coverage from 12:00 to 14:30 averaged 298k (4.8%), down on last year’s figure of 422k (5.3%).

Channel 4’s highlights programme, which aired from 17:30 to 19:00, averaged 1.09m (9.2%), down on last year’s audience of 1.32m (9.2%), but level in share. The combined average audience of 1.38 million viewers is down 21 percent on last year’s combined audience of 1.74 million viewers.

From a ratings perspective, this was not a good news weekend for Formula 1, more disappointing coming off the controversy from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Of course, weather does play a factor, but to record lower audience shares year-on-year is not good news for either broadcaster. Earlier in the season, we had one or two occasions where the audience went down, but the audience share went up, whereas in Austria both metrics decreased.

The 2016 Austrian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Scheduling: The 2017 British Grand Prix / New York City ePrix

The 2017 Formula One season heads to Silverstone for the half stage of the championship, the British Grand Prix. For the second year in succession, the race clashes with the Wimbledon finals, which will not help domestic or international viewing figures. The weekend also symbolises the half way point of the current contract between Channel 4 and Formula One Management, with their three-year agreement due to end next season.

The free-to-air broadcaster will have a broad presentation team with David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Eddie Jordan, and Susie Wolff all alongside Steve Jones. However, Whisper Films will be without Lee McKenzie for the second race in a row, this time McKenzie is part of Channel 4’s coverage of the World Para Athletics Championships, which starts on Friday evening. The main supplementary offering from Channel 4 is the latest edition of F1 Meets, this time with 1992 champion Nigel Mansell.

Sky is without Anthony Davidson, as he is in Germany for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring. Expect the usual faces of Paul di Resta and Johnny Herbert to be back with Sky, whilst Natalie Pinkham and Rachel Brookes will be appearing. Sky is the main beneficiary of the hastily arranged four-day weekend, with Formula Two and GP3 practice moved to Thursday. To be honest, I am not sure how fans will benefit from the adjusted Silverstone schedule – it feels like an attempt by Liberty and the track to extract more money from the paying punter with very little in addition, but there you are.

Elsewhere, the penultimate weekend of Formula E takes place in New York, with Martin Haven, Bob Varsha and Dario Franchitti on commentary duty. As discussed already, Channel 5 are airing the first race of the weekend on tape-delay. No word yet if there will be any legal way for UK viewers to watch the race live.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
14/07 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1
14/07 – 12:55 to 15:00 – Practice 2
15/07 – 09:55 to 11:25 – Practice 3
15/07 – 11:55 to 14:30 – Qualifying
16/07 – 12:00 to 16:30 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build–Up
=> 12:35 – Race
=> 15:10 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
15/07 – 11:25 to 11:55 – F1 Meets… Nigel Mansell

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
14/07 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports 1)
14/07 – 12:45 to 15:00 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports 1)
15/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
15/07 – 12:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying
16/07 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
12/07 – 18:00 to 21:00 – London Live (also Sky Sports 1 and Mix)
12/07 – 21:00 to 21:30 – F1 Report: Preview
13/07 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Driver Press Conference
13/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – The F1 Show
13/07 – 21:15 to 21:30 – Paddock Uncut
14/07 – 16:35 to 17:30 – Team Press Conference
14/07 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The F1 Show
19/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
13/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/07 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
16/07 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – New York City (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
15/07 – 12:55 to 14:10 – Race 1, Practice 1
15/07 – 15:25 to 16:10 – Race 1, Practice 2
16/07 – 11:55 to 12:55 – Race 2, Practice

Formula E – New York City
15/07 – 16:45 to 18:10 – Race 1, Qualifying (Spike)
15/07 – 20:30 – Race 1 (Channel 5 Sport’s Facebook)
15/07 – 22:00 to 23:30 – Race 1 (Channel 5)
– note: airing on a one-hour tape delay
16/07 – 13:45 to 15:15 – Race 2, Qualifying (Spike)
16/07 – 17:30 to 19:10 – Race 2 (Channel 5)

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
13/07 – 16:00 to 16:45 – Practice
14/07 – 15:15 to 15:45 – Qualifying
15/07 – 14:55 to 16:25 – Race 1
16/07 – 09:15 to 10:30 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
14/07 – 16:05 to 16:35 – Qualifying
15/07 – 16:25 to 17:25 – Race 1
16/07 – 07:55 to 08:50 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Toronto (BT Sport 1)
16/07 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Britain
16/07 – Race
=> 10:15 to 11:15 (Eurosport)
=> 10:30 to 11:10 (Sky Sports F1)

World Endurance Championship – Nürburgring
16/07 – Race
=> 11:30 to 18:45 (BT Sport 3)
=> 11:45 to 18:20 (Motorsport.tv)
=> 17:15 to 18:15 (Eurosport)

Given the late changes to the British schedule in recent weeks, there is a high probability of further additions, so please keep an eye on this post for any schedule changes.

Update on July 12th – As hinted at above, the schedule change is London Live! The event will be streamed online and aired on Sky Sports 1, F1 and Mix.

Update on July 13th – A familiar face to UK F1 television viewers is back for the first time in nine years this weekend, as Louise Goodman is the super substitute for Lee McKenzie.

Update on July 15th – At the eleventh hour, its been confirmed that Channel 5 will stream the first Formula E race this weekend via their Sport’s Facebook page.

The “missed” handshake

In sport, the media amplifies rivalries by reporting on the action in front of them. Whether this reporting concerns on the football pitch, the boxing arena or the tennis court, media outlets, both print and visual, are looking for that moment. Sometimes though, the journalism goes beyond the sporting arena to further a rivalry, leaning towards reporting of a deceitful nature.

The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel came to a head in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with Vettel side-swiping Hamilton. The media reported the story from every angle, Fleet Street had their say as did broadcasters everywhere. Whilst the two championship protagonists have moved on, the media around them are still looking for opportunities to further elongate their rivalry.

With that, we come to the “missed” handshake. Did Lewis Hamilton refuse to shake Vettel’s hand? Or did Hamilton shake Vettel’s hand earlier in proceedings, in a more natural manner? And either way, does it matter whether he did or did not?

From the World Feed, moments after qualifying and just before the post-qualifying interviews, an overhead camera captured Vettel and Hamilton shaking hands. The two did not make a big deal of it, the handshake was part of the informal pleasantries before the post-qualifying grid interviews. The overhead shot was probably not the close-up angle Formula One Management (FOM) wanted.

🤝 . #AustrianGP #Austria #F1 #Formula1 #LewisHamilton #SebastianVettel

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The problem comes later when, after the interviews, Davide Valsecchi asked the two drivers to shake hands. Hamilton refused, stating that the two had already shaken hands prior to the interviews. Media outlets used this refusal to further their rivalry. Except, the refusal was a non-story for reasons described above.

Whilst it is easy to criticise Valsecchi, who is also a reporter for Sky Italia and Formula Two commentator, it is possible that the directive to throw the handshake line in there actually came from FOM, aka. Liberty Media to get a handshake on television in front of the large viewing audience. It felt like an incentive was thrown to stir up trouble.

Either way, certain aspects of the media spun the story by directly referencing Hamilton’s “refusal” to shake Vettel’s hand, choosing to leave out the latter half of the story. Sky Sports F1 tweeted, with video, that Hamilton rejected “a public show of reconciliation”, despite the fact he and Vettel shook hands minutes earlier, in front of the public! Sky were not alone, The Mirror chose the same approach with their headline, almost as if alternative facts existed. Other broadcasters no doubt went down the same route.

Again, I re-iterate the above point: does it matter? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. This time tomorrow, the handshake will be history as we analyse the Grand Prix. But, this ‘episode’ is a symptom of sensationalism that is ever more creeping into Formula 1 journalism, as journalists are eager to find stories and build on their hits.

The concern for me too is that Sky will be UK’s only F1 television broadcaster from 2019. Personally, I want to see them tone down their tabloid reporting such as the above – not every single incident requires verbiage. Today’s build-up from Sky was excellent in my view, but unfortunately their tabloid style post-race with this has let the broadcaster down, and not for the first time.