BT: Champions League final in VR

Participants in a panel discussion at TV Connect on ‘Broadcast innovation in sport’ have suggested that their companies’ acquisition of exclusive sports rights has presented the opportunity to enable deeper engagement by followers and viewers by using new and emerging technologies.

Jamie Hindhaugh, COO, BT Sports, told delegates that the broadcaster, which holds the exclusive pay-TV rights for European club football tournaments the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, as well as selected English Premier League (EPL) games, wanted to give viewers an experience as close to being in the stadium as possible. He said BT Sport will be showing the Champions League final this year live in VR and on social media, using seven 360 degree cameras.

It was doing so via 4K broadcasts and the use of Dolby Atmos, introduced in January 2017. Hindhaugh advised that BT Sport was also looking at the potential for VR, noting that a limited trial had taken place in September 2016, with coverage of an EPL game between Chelsea and Arsenal being transmitted to selected retail stores owned by BT’s mobile subsidiary, EE. “Having EE as part of the group gives us the opportunity to experiment with such initiatives,” said Hindhaugh.

Similarly, Simon Farnsworth, EVP European and Sports Technology, Discovery Communications, suggested that the broadcaster’s acquisition of a wide range of exclusive territorial rights to future Olympic Games would help make them “more relevant” to sports fans by deepening their engagement. VR was one possible mechanism. Farnsworth said that there was potential for additional story telling around the Games, and that the broadcaster was looking to exploit its existing relationships with service providers across a broad range of platforms to guarantee a broad reach of viewership.

Christopher Schouten, Senior Product Marketing Director at NAGRA, warned that the increased quality of premium sports content available was making such broadcasts the target for illegal rebroadcast to so-called ‘Kodi’ boxes, advising that measures needed to be in place to protect rights holders’ investments.

 

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