The UEFA Champions League encounter on Wednesday March 7th between Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus gave BT Sport the opportunity to showcase the world’s first broadcast of a UEFA Champions League game in High Definition HDR direct to mobile.
The live trial took place at Wembley Stadium, broadcasting to a beta version of the BT Sport App on a range of devices including the brand new Samsung S9 on EE’s 4G mobile network.
The live broadcast used EE’s 4G network, bringing together the powerful end-to-end capabilities of BT’s Consumer division.
The BT Sport App is free for EE customers on Max plans and BT mobile customers.
“Mobile viewers are an important and growing part of our audience, and we’re constantly focusing on innovating to ensure the best possible experience for our sports fans,” commented Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer, BT Sport. “HDR is the future for mobile – the technology is perfect for getting the most out of the small screen, with incredible colour and definition.”
According to BT, HD HDR provides a better mobile experience and is less data intensive for both the mobile network and the user’s data consumption than 4K.
To prove the performance of HD HDR live broadcast to mobile, BT Sport utilised a 24 camera Ultra HD set up at Wembley Stadium, with 17 HDR cameras native HDR, and the remaining seven cameras converted to HDR 10 PQ. BT Sport will continue to test the new HD HDR technology along with other features in development.
In 2017, BT Sport broadcast the UEFA Champions League final using HDR in Ultra-High Definition (UHD) with Dolby Atmos sound on its BT TV service at a private screening in London. The match was also available for the first time in Virtual Reality 360 to fans, and in 4K UHD on YouTube and 4K UHD with Dolby Atmos sound on BT TV.
Paolo Pescatore, VP, Multiplay and Media, CCS Insight, attended the match and showcase, declaring the proof of concept a success. “Being a 4K aficionado I was sceptical at first, but the project worked very well in a congested network environment and the picture quality was superb,” he reports.
“Based on my experience, a combination of HD and HDR is likely to be better suited to smaller screens. Not only does it provide an excellent image quality, it also brings lots of other advantages. In particular, broadcasting a live-stream in HD and HDR needs far less bandwidth than 4K content; about 7 Mbps rather than 16 Mbps to 20 Mbps for 4K. Consumers will use less data and gain a better viewing experience when relying on a mobile connection. For mobile operators, it would seem that the economics of delivering live video in this format makes more sense than in 4K,” he advises.
“This latest move reaffirms BT Sport’s technological leadership and sets a benchmark for network operators and new players looking to offer video and TV services in other markets,” he suggests. “This is also the first of what I believe will be many cases where it will gain from being part of the BT group, by using its parent’s extensive fixed-line and mobile networks. We note that EE is starting to bring BT Sport further into its huge retail presence, marketing messages and price plans.”
“However, BT has so far failed to maximise the opportunity BT Sport presents,” he notes. “Given escalating content costs, it must do more to take full advantage of what I think is an extremely valuable asset. The latest Premier League UK rights auction is a testament to the ongoing challenges the company faces: it’s spending more money per match, but ending up with fewer games and the unloved Saturday lunchtime slot.”
According to Pescatore, these rising costs have led BT to scale back its broader aspirations. “It must now consider making BT Sport available on more platforms and services and use it to attract subscribers. After all, it established itself as a strong number two after Sky in the race to secure rights to show Premier League matches. Previous bidders including the likes of Setanta have tried and failed to compete,” he adds.