Sky Sports Free Day – Saturday August 16th 2014
“Who’s having a lie in?” my wife asks when our two children wake up. “You have a lie in” I insist; my wife offers for me to have a lie in again, but I reply “It’s ok, Sky Sports is free today, I’ll have one tomorrow!”. I switch on Sky Sports 1 HD and they’re counting down the top 20 Premier League games of last season as voted for by Sky Sports viewers. The match at number 8 has just started – Cardiff 2, Sunderland 2 (from December 2013). At number 7… I had to look twice…. Cardiff and Sunderland again! (This time the match at the Stadium of Light from April this year where Sunderland won 4-0). 7am – and at number six it was Sunderland again! This time Crystal Palace were the opponents, from August last year and Palace won 3-1. During an ad break in between the 15 minute football highlight segments at 7:15, I turn over to Sky Sports News HQ HD on Channel 408; it’s halfway through a paper review… then it’s to an ad break! We’ll try out Sky Sports News HQ later. Back to ‘Football Gold’ – match at number 5, Hull v Liverpool from December 2013, Hull won 3-1. 7:30 – time for breakfast, I’ll be back for more later…
I open the door just before the paper is posted through our door. Delivery man is excited about football season starting, he’s a Man United fan – their 1st game is on BT Sport at lunchtime. “BT Sport has more games this season” he says. Actually, that’s not strictly true – they have the same amount of Premier League games as last season. To clarify, there’s 380 Premier League games being played this season in total. BT Sport can show 38 games live and Sky Sports have the rights to 116 games. With the other 226 games, Sky Sports will show “at least” 45 minutes of each game through their ‘Football First’ programme. Of course BT’s portfolio will increase significantly next season with the exclusive UEFA Champions League and Europa League coverage, but that’s a year away…
Not watched much more of the Sky Sports free day this morning; I flicked through their portfolio of channels just before 10am – for example ‘The Fantasy Football Club’ had guest Paul Merson in the studio on Sky Sports 1… but nothing grabbing my attention at the moment, the live stuff comes later today…
With the children happily playing, I put Sky Sports 1 on for their live coverage of Day 2 in the Test Cricket – England v India. Doesn’t appear to be any interactive features today; last time I saw cricket on Sky (and it could be a while ago) there was the option to change camera angle, view scoreboard etc? Having said that, the coverage looks stunning in HD – brilliant production values. And the free alternative is a nightly 60 minute highlights programme on Channel Five at 7pm – with Sky Sports, it’s a nine hour programme with every ball and full analysis. I leave the cricket playing in the background, in the middle of doing other stuff, until 11:30 – time to sort dinner out!
Kids asleep! Switch on Sky Sports 3 – to check what’s happening in their live Scottish football game Celtic v Dundee United. Sky Sports shows 25 live games per year from the Scottish Premiership, BT Sports shows 30 and BBC Alba shows 3 games. I then switch over to Sky Sports 1 for the start of the 2nd half in Championship game Leeds v Middlesborough. Watch for about five minutes, still 0-0 and not really captivating me. 1:25 – and I let my other half catch up with this week’s ‘Location, Location, Location’ J. And having just checked the score at Old Trafford, one can’t help but feel they’re missing out on the big match so far today – Swansea have just taken the lead!
If you visit www.sky.com/joinsky you’ll see that at present you can sign up for the ‘Original’ bundle and Sky Sports and the current offer price is £38, HD would be £5.25 more – broadband and phone costs would be on top of this. If you sign up for Sky Sports, you can get 2 years free broadband, line rental is £15.40 plus whatever phone tariff you’d prefer. BT Sport on Sky is an extra £12 per month, £3 more for HD. Just over £70 for everything I’ve mentioned above, and the Original package is the smallest of the TV packages available, the Family Bundle (largest TV package) is an extra £11.50 at it’s offer price.
A leisurely Saturday afternoon – flicking between Golf and football scores. Sky Sports 4 has Live European Tour Golf (The Made in Denmark tournament) and Jeff Stelling is hosting Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports 5 (also on Sky Sports News HD, two of the sports channels showing exactly the same programme). Soccer Saturday is great, I personally think it’s leagues ahead of Final Score on BBC Red Button and I think that’s mainly because of the anchorman Stelling. They have lively pundits on board (including Paul Merson), good personalities. The Golf coverage is excellent, with almost three hours of live action from Wales this afternoon. Good commentary, plenty of cameras around the course, and it’s focusing on the actual golf – I get so irritated when BBC for example leaves a live sport event to run a pre-recorded feature on someone taking part, there’s no need for it!
Just a comparison – on Freeview channels now there’s European Athletics, Horse Racing or Final Score… Sky Sports channels have Soccer Saturday with score updates, currently a boxing feature, live Cricket, live Rugby Union (South Africa v Argentina), live golf just finishing and a replay of this year’s German Grand Prix. Certainly plenty of choice. Of course, no live football in the UK at 3pm – there’s an embargo on any UK channel showing live games at 3pm, but Arsenal v Crystal Palace to come… I switch over to Sky Sports 3 to glance at the Rugby Union mentioned above – South Africa with an early lead at the moment (7-0); looks like the live feed is coming from an overseas broadcaster. Back to Soccer Saturday – my team Wigan drawing away from home against Charlton… can we get a winner before 4:45? 4:10pm – time to start getting tea ready – and the house is a tip! Housework’s gone on hold today – all in the name of journalism for this special edition of my blog! (That’s my excuse, I’m sticking to it!) Back for more later, I promise!
No more Sky Sports at the moment, my two little children are watching ‘In The Night Garden’ – can’t always be my choice of viewing! Jeff Stelling has made way for Igglepiggle! Incidentally, just looked online – my team Wigan lost 2-1 at Charlton. Must do better, especially if we want to get back to the Premier League. Swansea beat Man U 2-1 earlier, BT Sport must be loving their first choice of game this season. There will be two talking points in the pubs and clubs tonight – Cliff Richard and Man United losing! And on Sky Sports’s ‘Football First’ coverage tonight, I don’t think they have the rights to the United game – Sky Sports viewers without BT Sport will have to make to with 10 minutes of highlights on BBC1’s ‘Match of the Day’… But BT Sport only get 19 top picks out of their 38 matches, some matches will be more low key…
Ah, the highlight of today’s free day – Arsenal v Crystal Palace, opening day Premier League action. I watch the 1st few minutes of the game, then the geek in me presses red to check out the ‘Saturday Night Football’ interactive coverage. Doesn’t work. Press the Sky button on my remote to get back to my normal viewing, but instead all I see is a blank screen. Can’t see a single channel. Have to unplug Sky box and reboot – back with the footy at 5:41, still 0-0. Try the interactive feature again, this time it works! The highlights feature will be handy, got bath time to do shortly!
One other way of watching Premier League football that I’ve not mentioned today – LFC TV on Sky Channel 429. All of their 38 Premier League games will be shown delayed on the channel, as well as FA Cup and League Cup games. For example, tomorrow’s match against Southampton is live on Sky Sports at 1:30, it will be on LFC TV at 6pm. Avoid the score, it’s an option if you’re on a budget… Just catching up on highlights of Arsenal/Palace through the red button during half time, 1-1 so far. Half time analysis looks good for Saturday Night Football – does seem to work with the audience in the studio, strange concept for live football coverage but I like it.
Anyone else watching the Sky Sports free day? Please leave your comments, would love to hear what you think so far.
Catch the last 7 or 8 minutes of the Arsenal/Palace match and catch the winning goal! Good start for the Gunners. I then switch to US PGA Golf on Sky Sports 4 (After 8pm, I pressed the red button and there’s three golf tournaments to choose from – the LPGA Wegman’s Championship, the US Amateur Championship and the Wyndham Championship which is on Sky Sports 4. By 7:40pm, I leave Sky Sports News HQ on in the background and pour myself a whisky – think I’ll switch over to Sky Sports 1 at 8 to watch the Premier League’s Game of the Day…
Today’s game of the day is Leicester v Everton, which ended in a 2-2 draw. It’s the full 90 minutes, which started just five hours after kick off, all in glorious HD. I love this. Put it this way – by 10:30pm, when Match of the Day starts on BBC1, out of the seven matches today Sky Sports will have shown two of them in full, and four out of the remaining five will have highlights on Sky Sports starting at 10pm.
Thoughts so far – would I like Sky Sports on a permanent basis? Absolutely – yes! And yes, I recommend it, the coverage is exceptional, it’s polished – and not just with football, with golf and the other bits I’ve seen today. Can I afford it? No – to add it to my Sky package is another £24.50 a month, and as a family that’s a big chunk from our budget, especially as I work part time.
Whilst writing, just to give you a heads-up, I’ll be on BBC Radio Leeds live on Wednesday August 27th at 1:30pm, being interviewed by presenter Martin Kelner in a feature called ‘Brief Lives’ (like Desert Island Discs but it’s normal local people being interviewed). Martin will be asking me about my life, and I’ll be mentioning the blog too. Will be on BBC Iplayer for a week after broadcast – tune in if you can!
My last post of today – off to bed shortly. Caught 10 minutes of ‘Football First’ – I selected QPR v Hull, interactive coverage with six screens – good but doesn’t seem to be in HD – but ‘Football First’ makes ‘Match of the Day’ look like a tired format if you ask me. The fact that fans can watch what match they choose, rather than have 8 minutes or so of a game, with analysis in between, before they can see another 8 minutes from a different game. ‘Football First’ is shown a couple of times during the night – and if you press ‘Record’ from the Sky TV menu, you can choose which match you want to record – for example at 10pm you could record two games, then in the later repeat you could record a different two games if you wanted to and watch them at your leisure.
That’s all for now – the normal Freeview blog will be back as usual during the week! Hope you liked today’s special feature – remember visit http://www.sky.com/joinsky for more information and of course there’s also NOW TV with Day and Weekly passes now available (£6.99 current price for Day Pass, £10.99 for a Week Pass)