Friday 13th March 2020, the unlucky date that live sport as we knew it stopped.
365 days on, that date remains etched in my memory. For someone with a remit of making sure that live sport happens, that date was a paradox, one where we had no choice but to make it unhappen. Sat in Sky Studios in Osterley – like dominoes our schedules saw global sport pale into insignificance. Production teams were repatriated from Melbourne F1, The Players Championship golf in Florida, England cricket in Sri Lanka, as well as crew up and down the UK working across football and rugby.
Many of us in the industry are sportspeople – winning habits die hard but the challenge facing all of us this past year was undoubtedly huge, both personally and professionally. Sitting at home on 14th March 2020 whilst our industry was closing, it would have been impossible to predict the drive and ingenuity that has been witnessed every single day since.
The instant pivot to different production methods has been well documented. Live remote production has become the norm rather than the next frontier, content creation in the cloud is commonplace, many crafts can operate from their homes; like so many industries COVID-19 has been the catalyst to accelerate the future forward to now.
Beyond the immense technical wizardry, this innate will to win and succeed against the odds has been central in conjuring up new ways of working. Innovating and experimenting with new techniques hasn’t just paid off but flourished. Historic silos of technical vs production vs content creators have all but evaporated. Inter & intra-related teams, suppliers, partners & competitors have collaborated and critically trusted each other to ensure that the complicated jigsaw puzzle of sports content creation could still enlighten & entertain as it bubbled back to life.
Within Sky Sports, we created steering groups that moved us through each sport coming back on air. Spanning the entire ecosystem, the collective trust that this brought, through effective communication, absolute inclusion & encouragement of collaboration in all areas was critical to our success. The volume of sports returning by mid-summer left our diaries at bursting point, but our teams continued to give it their all, learning from other sports, adapting to new circumstances, protocols & constant new challenges.
Our vocabularies have changed immeasurably, the language of television was already nuanced – add to it bubbles, social distance, PCR testing, behind closed doors, augmented crowds – all now de rigueur! Perhaps the phrase now on everyone’s lips is hybrid working – does it relate to me, what will it change for me, my team, my boss, my colleagues? It’s clear that with tech advances, collaboration from sports venue to production hub to home works – but are we missing something? Those sparks of ideas from a real face to face meetings, those creative gems dreamt up in a corridor, over an office coffee. Only time will tell.
365 days on and the light at the end of the tunnel does seem to be shining a little brighter; thankfully our screens this mid-March weekend are full up with live sport. The plethora of the Premier League, Players Championship, F1 seasons are all being created very differently, but with quiet determination to succeed and in a year where trust & collaboration have been and will continue to be, central to our sporting success.