• BT Sport App upgrade showcases 5G capabilities.
  • 5G Edge-XR project starting to bear fruit.
  • Support crew of specialist partners, including outreach startups.

BT Sport App enters a new reality

BT Sport App enters a new reality

Source: BT Sport

BT unveiled an upgraded version of the BTSportApp with new augmented reality (AR) features that exploit the capabilities of EE’s 5G network.

BT Sport will be unreal

BT Sport has been exploring new ways for fans to watch sport during the coronavirus pandemic.

It recently revealed it was testing augmented, mixed, and virtual reality applications using 5G technology and edge computing in a new research project, called 5GEdge-XR, which is part of the UK government-funded £30m 5GCreate programme (BTwatch, #316).

Although not explicitly mentioned, it would appear that findings from the project have fed into the upgraded version of the BTSportApp (see below).

In an interview with BroadcastSport, Matt Stagg, Director of Mobile Strategy at BT Sport, also indicated that AR-based holographic broadcasts could become a reality within the next few years.

BT has been collaborating with Condense Reality on 3D hologram technology within the 5GEdge-XR project. The virtual reality startup was a runner-up in BT’s Telecom Infra Project Ecosystem Acceleration Centre’s third wave of finalists in January 2020 (BTwatch, #309).

Tip of the iceberg

Jamie Hindhaugh, Chief Operating Officer at BT Sport, told SportsPro that the aim is to avoid “gimmicky” products and focus on features that will genuinely enhance the viewing experience.

I think that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we are able to do here, collectively [with the BTSportApp upgrade] —both for our audiences and also our own production”, he said, hinting at more developments to come.

Sam Kemp, Director of Products & Services Technology at EE, said the synergies between BT, BT Sport, and EE had given the Group the “freedom and flexibility” to look into new types of services that exploit 5G.

In terms of the rollout, these features have, of course, been stitched and embedded into our BTSport application, but early feedback is that it’s going incredibly well”, Kemp said, adding that there has been “twice the amount of uptake” in EE’s BTSport subscriptions in recent weeks.

BT Sport App upgrade

The new BTSportApp capabilities are grouped under MatchDay Experience, which uses AR technology to provide a more immersive viewing experience for football fans, initially with a focus on PremierLeague matches, as well as selected UEFAChampions League, UEFAEuropa League, and Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches. The upgraded app is offered with a new EE5G FullWorks plan and the new, 5G-equipped Apple iPhone12. Match Day Experience includes:

  • WatchTogether, which enables a split-screen interface and the ability to create a WatchTogether room.
  • 360-degree pitch-side viewing.
  • MatchDayLive and Stadium Experience, using AR technology to access team, match, and behind-the-scenes information.
  • Manager Mode, allowing users to add their own graphics.
  • DolbyAtmos audio, which is set to be offered for certain events. Dolby’s “immersive” technology debuted on the BTSportApp for 4K UHD and high-dynamic-range (HDR) viewing of the Brighton–Liverpool PremierLeague match in late-November 2020.

Various other enabler partners were flagged:

  • SportsPro said the 360-degree viewing experience was built and deployed in collaboration with video content delivery specialist Tiled Media and longstanding BT Sport supplier Deltatre, a sports broadcasting service provider owned by media group Bruin Sports Capital (BTwatch, #278). Bruin had been exploring a sale of Deltatre, but reportedly ended the process in April 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • MatchDayLive and StadiumExperience were developed in partnership with AR specialist Visualise, while WatchTogether is based on technology from social-viewing specialist Sceenic, a former winner of a BT Infinity Lab competition for new sports media innovation (BTwatch, #293).
  • SportsPro added that BT is also working with Stats Perform and Second Spectrum, the statistics and tracking partners of the PremierLeague, respectively, to build a “comprehensive and robust” football data stream to support MatchDay Experience.