Sky News’ London studio handed over full control to a team working from home on Friday in what it believes to be a live TV news first.
Sarah-Jane Mee presented the half-hour special Life After Lockdown from her south London home with journalists, guests and a behind-the-scenes team all working remotely.
Mee told viewers at the start of the programme that “groundbreaking technology” was being used, but that there should not be any considerable changes to their viewing experience.
Nick Stylianou (pictured), who produced the show using a laptop, computer, monitor, iPad and iPhone from his bedroom, told Press Gazette this was “definitely a Sky News first and very probably a live TV news first”.
Director James Whicher built the usual Sky News look from his dining room in Surrey, pushing software to its “absolute limit” to include talkback, Mees, three correspondents in the UK, a guest in France, four contributors on Zoom and producer and director cams.
Everything except the ticker and Sky News icon in the top left corner came from them, including all other straps and on-screen furniture.
Economics editor Ed Conway displayed charts on a TV in his house, helping the programme avoid looking just like an on-air Zoom call.
Aside from Stylianou and Whicher, head of studio output Ben Wickham and Kevin Donaldson, another director, were on hand in case anything went wrong – a tiny behind-the-scenes team that Stylianou believes other broadcasters “would probably have doubled or even tripled”.
He praised Sky News director of content Cristina Nicolotti Squires, head of news John Ryley and head of news output Neil Dunwoodie for being supportive “on what was clearly a high risk for the channel”.
Stylianou described the feeling of being suddenly “at the sharp end on my own in my bedroom in the most-watched slot of the day” as a “bit terrifying”.
“But that’s what’s so exhilarating about it – lots of us thrive on the pressure that only working in live broadcast news can give,” he said.
“It was a rollercoaster and we managed to cleanly hand back to the studio for the 5pm Downing Street briefing with a bit of time to spare – I didn’t want to be the guy who missed the first bit of that.”
Stylianou added: “Despite some of our rehearsals going very well and a few going very badly, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of pulling it off afterwards – not just the euphoria that we did it, but that we actually gave our viewers some premium news content – context, analysis and editorial insight that would’ve fitted easily in with the best of our virus pandemic coverage even if it wasn’t such a technological marvel.”
He said that being able to roll out this capability for specific programmes would be a “real boon” and could be used again with some “bells and whistles” from the base studio, although it would work best with a static running order rather than rolling news programming.