Sky Sports F1’s ratings have increased 23 percent on 2013, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures. Alongside this, the consensus amongst blog readers is that the product has improved on 2013, suggesting that things are definitely heading up for the team.
As with the BBC, there are areas of Sky’s product which have been superb. However, there are still a few points in my eyes which could be tweaked, or should be changed altogether.
When it was announced that Sky Sports would be launching their own Formula 1 channel, they promised to push the boundaries of what would be possible with the coverage. That did not happen, in my eyes. Some of the features produced were longer in length than BBC’s, but not necessarily better (Martin Brundle driving a Ferrari one of the early examples). 2013 was not great for the team, but this season, they have taken a significant step forward where the quality of features are concerned. Normally, Sky’s pre-race build-up contains Martin Brundle’s grid walk, but Sky went down a different avenue at Monza.
For Italy, Sky went behind the scenes with Williams, tracing their every step from garage all the way to the starting grid. It was something that I had never seen before, it was superb television viewing. Sometimes, a viewer does not appreciate just how much effort goes into the start procedure, the feature with Williams and Brundle really brought the build-up into the viewers home and gave the viewer a perfect insight into what happens before the race begins. I hope we see more features like this during 2015.
Rain or shine, Ted Kravitz’s Notebook continues to be a cornerstone of Sky Sports F1’s coverage, both on TV and online. Kravitz’s Notebook began when he was with the BBC, although the quantity has increased in the past few years on Sky Sports F1. You could argue that quality is more important than quantity, normally, I would agree with that statement, but the Notebook is a different kettle of fish.
I don’t watch the Notebook for the best technically produced product, I watch it to see Kravitz going up and down the paddock giving the viewer information along with a mixture of gossip and behind the scenes information. It is completely different to the rest of the output on Sky Sports F1 which makes it stand out from the rest of the channel.
A great way of creating debate on social media, #AskCrofty has once again been an interesting read in 2014. Sometimes I laugh and despair at the questions asked, however I appreciate the openness of doing something of that nature over social media. In some instances, the questions have influenced their live TV broadcast, as the reaction to Adam Parr’s tweet in September showed. #AskCrofty led to David Croft doing a live show based on the hash tag at the end of the season, which was brilliant to watch, generating more reaction on social media than your typical episode of The F1 Show.
US Grand Prix build-up
I wanted to make this point a separate blog at the time, but sadly time constraints meant that I was unable to. The US Grand Prix build-up was probably Sky’s worst of the entire year. The actual features in a standalone context were good, with Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill trying out NASCAR and a selection of sports stars focussing on the psychology. The problem was that both features were completely out of place on a weekend when only 18 cars lined up on the grid. 90 percent of the programme was focussed on the Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg title battle.
The entire race programme was simulcast on Sky Sports 1, in an attempt to capitalise on a Super Sunday football game prior to it and to bring some casual fans into the picture. You can understand from that perspective why Sky developed features to cater for those who may not be regular Formula 1 fans. I know they talked about Formula 1’s issues in the qualifying show, but even so, the issues facing Formula 1 on race day were brushed under the carpet as a result of the simulcast.
With financial issues being a key talking point throughout the season as a result of the new formula, Sky have not been helped by having too many pundits that are former drivers. Whilst the Brundle piece with Peter Windsor debating potential changes for 2015 was a good feature later in the season, not having any ex team bosses or ex team personnel in their programming hurt them. Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill may be okay to talk about driver issues, but when it comes to issues off the track, the programming is hurt as a result of not having enough variety.
A separate issue to do with the punditry, but under the same banner concerns the bias surrounding Lewis Hamilton, which was noticeable during the US Grand Prix build-up as mentioned above, however the bias that Sky may have shown pales in comparison to that displayed in other countries in recent years.
Sky have made some fantastic improvements, their programming feels more ‘fluid’ than it once did. Their features overall have improved as well. But there is something about the majority of their VT’s that does not click. Some of the VT’s come across as a ‘cartoon’-like in nature whilst the poetry aspect in the end of season VT seemed out of place. This is one area for me where Sky still languishes behind the BBC. I don’t feel as much connection with the VT’s that Sky Sports produce compared to the VT’s that BBC produce.
There are a few other points worth making, such as the scheduling, it would be great if GP2 was more integrated into the programming, but I think that boat sailed a long time ago. Overall, Sky Sports F1 has made some major strides forward in 2014, which has been reflected in the viewing figures. If there is a British driver in the 2015 championship race, there is no reason why the viewing figures cannot continue to improve, with the quality of Sky’s broadcasts improving alongside it.