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.”