Sky Sports are happy with their “extraordinary relationship” with Formula 1, in the face of suggestions that the relationship had ‘strained’ because of the recent launch of F1 TV.
The pay-TV broadcaster, who have been covering the sport since 2012, signed a deal at the start of 2016 to cover F1 on an exclusively live basis from 2019 through to 2024.
Since 2016, Liberty Media have bought Formula 1 from previous owners CVC and have made major hurdles in the digital space, including launching their own over-the-top service.
Liberty aims to make F1 TV available in as many territories as possible, however, Sky’s F1 deal (which pre-dates Liberty’s involvement in F1) currently prevents the premium tier from launching in the UK, a source of frustration for some UK fans.
For Liberty, this is an obstacle as it restricts the growth of F1 TV, given the historical popularity of the sport in the UK.
Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Forum in London last month, Sky’s Head of Formula 1 Scott Young denied suggestions that the relationship between F1 and Sky had become ‘strained’ in recent times.
“The relationship hasn’t improved because they have not strained,” Young said. “We have an extraordinary relationship with every aspect within Formula 1, including the 10 teams and the 20 drivers. And without that relationship we can’t create a narrative.”
Young addressed how fans, past and future, are consuming sport, noting that this forms part of the conversation Sky are having with stakeholders across the sporting landscape.
“We have an ongoing relationship and dialogue with Formula One about that [the consumption of F1],” he added.
“We have the same challenge in every sport. Technology is making it easier for fans to pick up a device, jump onto many different platforms and experience sport in a particular way.”
“The challenge we’ve now got, and the art of doing it right, is how do you direct an audience that is your foundation base, and then direct an incoming audience that wants to consume it differently and wants to enjoy an entertaining product.”
Have Sky bought “salt or pepper” for 2021 onwards?
The contracts that broadcasters sign in the motor sport space is unique, in that the sporting and technical regulations are subject to change or any time, which could have an adverse effect on the racing.
With stadium-based sports, the regulations are unlikely to change drastically year-on-year. However, F1 is set to undergo a radical change in 2021 which comes for Sky in year three of a six-year contract.
Although he is comfortable with Sky’s overall dialogue with F1, Young believes that Formula 1 could involve a broader set of stakeholders when making decisions about the sport’s future.
“I think Formula 1 could probably use the benefit of a number of people and organisations they have in the paddock and as partners to help them develop the business. Whether it’s necessarily us having a deeper role as a business in Formula 1, I think we’re quite comfortable where we are.”
“I do think Formula 1 probably need to draw on some of the experience that people have around when making some future decisions,” Young told the Black Book audience.
“We’re halfway through our rights period and we’re not too sure what we bought for 2021 onwards.”
“We know that the sport is going to either change, or drastically change, depending on which press release you should read, but we don’t know whether we’ve actually bought salt or pepper come halfway through our deal which is quite interesting when you think of an acquisition you’ve made.”
Young also talked briefly about the day-to-day contact between Sky and F1.
“There’s a daily dialogue that goes back and forth between Sky Sports Formula 1 and the team at Biggin Hill, at a granular level of making television, and the team at St James’s Market on an executive level,” he said.
“As I said before we’ve got a great relationship with F1. Whenever they call us seeking content that they like, we always share it. They’re always very good in providing us content or footage that we need to produce our story.”