This weekend BT Sport is set to broadcast the “most accessible” coverage of football match in the UK to date.
It will be broadcasting both days of the FA Disability Cup across three of its linear channels. The matches will also be available to watch as part of its Watch Together functionality.
The decision to broadcast the tournament for the first time is down to BT’s 4-3-3 sponsorship deal with the Football Association. Through their long-term partnership, announced in February 2020, BT and the FA have committed to expanding opportunities in disability football, as well as supporting women’s football and football communities.
“We have access to those broadcast rights, and we felt it was the right opportunity to support that sponsorship, to do a bit more than just talk about enabling or supporting disability sports,” BT Sport chief operating officer Jamie Hindhaugh tells TVBEurope.
Viewers will be given the option of three access services; sign language, audio description and subtitles, which will be available on three different channels. “I think it’s the biggest, most complex ever live sporting event using all three of these elements,” Hindhaugh adds. “We’re making all three of the channels free-to-air because I want it to be the most inclusive broadcast ever. I want it to meet the key challenge that we have for sport viewing which is about it being a shared viewing experience.
“By doing this what we’re enabling is people with different requirements to still be able to engage with that content in groups, socially etc, which I think is really exciting. The fact that it’s also free to view means there’s no barrier, so it’s completely inclusive from an access process, and from a viewing process as well.”
Red Bee Media will be providing the subtitles, while BT Sport is working with the National Institute for the Blind on the audio description. “It’s really first of its kind, I don’t think it’s ever been broadcast before. We’ve been working with the National Institute for the Blind to help us understand how different audio description is compared to commentary. We’re really excited to bring that to the fore,” explains Hindhaugh.
“I also think the audio description is going to be fascinating for those people who actually don’t tend to use it because it will make people really sit back and think of the difference between TV commentary, radio and audio description.”
The AD will be done live from St George’s Park, with BT Sport tapping into the feed and overlaying pictures. “It’s not done from the OB truck, it’s very similar to a commentary position. You need to have a good view to be able to describe what’s happening. Think commentating, but think different.”
Hindhaugh stresses the importance of inclusion, sustainability and community for BT Sport, and says the broadcaster needs to do better on inclusion around disability. “For me this is about actually looking at and learning from this. I want this as standard, and I want it a standard as soon as possible across all our live sport. I wanted to look at it in the same way we have with with remote production and 4K, which is about feeding back into the industry, being very open about how it works, what the benefits are.
“I think in this day and age it’s almost a shame we have to talk about inclusion in this way because it should be standard. I want everyone to enjoy BT Sport and I don’t want barriers for that.”
He adds that BT Sport will look to include access services for its Premier League and UEFA Champions League coverage in the future. “I want to look at which should be the priority, and feedback from this weekend, especially around things like audio description will be critical in helping us understand what works and what doesn’t,” he adds.
“I’m really looking forward to getting that feedback because we can plan all of this on our assumption, many of us don’t need these services and so we think we understand what people need. I’m very confident the plans we’ve got around audio description that we’re tapping into the experts to get that right, but it’ll be really interesting to get that feedback and then look at how we roll it out. This season there will definitely be at least one Premier League game on BT Sport that will have one or all of these aspects to it.
“I want to get to such a position where whenever we do live coverage across any of our sports, I would want to see these services to just come as standard.”