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Exclusive: BT Sport joins Metaverse Standards Forum

BT Sport's Matt Stagg talks to TVBEurope about the decision to join the Forum, and how the metaverse is a key part of BT Sport's immersive strategy

BT Sport has become the first sports broadcaster to join the newly formed Metaverse Standards Forum.

The Forum launched in June with the aim of fostering industry-wide cooperation on interoperability standards needed to build the open metaverse.

Members at launch included Adobe, disguise, Epic Games, NVIDIA, and Unity.

“Everybody’s talking about the metaverse in the sporting industry, it’s going to be massive,” BT Sport’s mobile and immersive strategy director Matt Stagg tells TVBEurope.

“It’s one of those things where it means everything or anything to everyone, but it’s new technology that’s still being defined.”

Stagg has been looking at BT Sport’s immersive strategy, and says he doesn’t believe there will be just a single metaverse. “There’s always going to be a number of connected worlds or connected experiences,” he adds. “In order for that to work for us and our plans and the plans of our fans and how they might in future interact, you need to have open standards. You need to be able to move either between these worlds or different experiences and that needs to have some open standardisation.

“In order for innovation to thrive you need to have a base. If you start to do things on your own you get lots of people doing lots of things which leads to fragmentation and that leads to cost complexity,” he adds.

“The Metaverse Standards Forum wasn’t set up to bring new standards, it was to look at the standards you have,” Stagg continues. “There are many people involved with a stake in the evolution of the metaverse. This gives us the opportunity to not only understand what’s going on, but drives some of the things that we feel the sports industry needs.

“We’ve always felt that we’ve been ahead in immersive and evolving technology, in some cases we represent the broadcast industry. We won’t ever be able to do anything large scale on our own. In order for us to be able to innovate, these things need underlying technology, and that could be the metaverse as it evolves.”

BT Sport’s ethos has always been to bring sports fans to the heart of sport, whether they are in the stadium or watching at home. However, Stagg admits there is a “massive gap” between those two primary focuses. “We want to look at how we can use immersive, and as it develops, possibly the metaverse, to bridge that gap,” he explains. “How can we use these new emerging technologies for someone who cannot be physically in a location so that they can experience almost as much as their mates who might be sat in a stadium? That’s key, and it allows us to focus on where we need to see development.

“We want to totally understand and see the way it’s going,” continues Stagg. “Ten years ago, we would never ever have thought that people were going to be sat on a bus watching a football match on their phone. So as that evolved and as that behaviour evolved, that’s where we’ve used our innovation when we started to come online. And then it was, how do we use our technology? Well, we already enhance experiences because we’ve got the timeline and we have 360 cameras. So again, it’s using technology to its full extent, to enhance the experience.”

Stagg adds that if BT Sport’s viewers are interacting with the metaverse, then the broadcaster wants to be in the situation where it can support them. “We will look at all technologies, but for us it’s about immersive and how that immersive experience develops,” he states. “We want to be there to be able to support that and drive that. The first working group that we’re looking to join when it’s set up is the one for ethics and online safety. The metaverse could turn into something negative. We want to ensure that children have an active and social lifestyle. If they’re going to watch a football match, that’s fine, but how do we make that experience the best we can for them?”

One of the key reasons for BT Sport joining the Metaverse Standards Forum so early is to gain an understanding that the metaverse is evolving. “A lot of people think of Ready Player One when they think of the metaverse, but it’s not going to be that,” says Stagg. “We’re right at the beginning of the formation of this so we don’t know how it’s going to evolve. We don’t know how our technology is going to evolve and be mixed with that, which is why we’re there to learn as well as provide the other members with our own learning into that, especially with our work around holographics and XR, because we get a lot of other companies asking, how does this work? It’s a two-way thing.”