BT plans to take football coverage “to the next level” when it begins its first of three seasons broadcasting the English Premier League from August 2013, and will invite bids from sports production companies to innovate the experience, writes Adrian Pennington. “We recognise that current coverage is of a high standard but we have a great opportunity to take that excellent coverage to the next level using our super fast broadband,” said BT Vision’s chief executive Marc Watson (pictured). “We are setting our minds to what innovation we can introduce and to deliver this to other devices in and out of the home. Every Premier League ground in the country is routed with our fibre so there are lots of opportunities there and we will be working hard to best exploit those opportunities and to improve quality,” he added. Outside broadcaster SIS Live commented: "Changes in rights are often a catalyst for even greater innovation; new entrants seek to differentiate their treatment of the event and the established broadcaster will often want to set the bar for production standards even higher.” BT is exploring “all options” as whether to produce the 38 Premier League matches per season in-house or to contract a third party producer such as Sunset + Vine or IMG Sports Media. “We recognise that [production companies] do that very well and partnering up with them makes sense,” said Watson. One innovation may be to offer PVR functionality on second screens in concert with the live-to-air feed, although Robert Gough, Head of Production Planning, North One TV, says such decisions need thinking through carefully. “Where you are offering a second screen app it needs to be complimentary to match coverage because some sports are not suitable for further interactivity. To engage in that kind of technology you need a sport to have breathers [pauses in play]. Cricket, for example, works a treat for replay and VoD analysis, but the danger with football is that you could take viewers away from the game. Football, in any case, tends to be more of a passive type of viewing experience,” he said. BT’s Life’s A Pitch dedicated soccer website, which includes some VoD, has potential for considerable expansion, believes Gough, and could build engagement with audiences in periods between matches. Johann Schreurs, EVS’ general manager of new media broadcast added: “If broadcasters do not provide content on the second screen the audience could switch channels. A second screen experience can prevent users from switching channels during half time.” BT’s plans include a dedicated Premier League channel available across a wide network of platforms, including Freeview and YouView. The service will also be streamed via BT Vision, BT’s existing IPTV platform, which has attracted 679,000 subscribers. It may also try and scoop up other rights in order to build up a full-time sports channel. The telco will have invested £2.5 billion in building out a broadband network that will cover two thirds of UK homes by 2014 with top speeds up to 76Mbps. It is currently available to over one million homes. BT’s 6.3 million broadband customers get free WiFi access as part of their package from 4 million hotspots across the UK and Ireland. www.btvision.bt.com
BT plans to take football coverage “to the next level” when it begins its first of three seasons broadcasting the English Premier League from August 2013, and will invite bids from sports production companies to innovate the experience, writes Adrian Pennington.