BT Sport continuing to grow football broadcasting presence
The club football campaign is only in its infant stage and BT Sport is already off to an epic start. With the much-hyped launch of its Ultra-HD channel, the debut of BT Sport Europe, and the ushering in as the exclusive rightsholder to the UEFA Champions League have the UK-based network poised to bolster its stance as a football broadcasting power.
With the completion of the Champions League Playoff Round on Wednesday, BT Sport will have concluded its first foray into its three-year window as exclusive UK rightsholder for the biggest football competition on the planet.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us and it’s a fantastic product,” says Jamie Hindhaugh, COO at BT Sport.
When the Group Stage kicks off on September 15, BT Sport will broadcast all of the matches live simultaneously using 13 channel outlets. The brand-new BT Sport Europe channel will be the home to the top UCL match each week. On BT TV, every game will be shown in HD, which is a first in England. In addition, one match per week in the Champions League Group Stage will feature a 4K match that will appear on the new BT Sport Ultra HD channel.
BT has also debuted a new, 4K-friendly studio to accompany its Champions League coverage that’s loaded with Sony cameras and a Sony switcher in the control room. The state-of-the-art facility features LED lighting and – beginning in the Group Stage – will showcase augmented reality of part of the production deliverables. Coverage from the studio will be anchored by Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand.
The production facility will be buzzing on game night as the main game will be anchored in studio, the second game will have pitch-side host presentation from site, and a third game (depending on the involvement of an English club) will also have in-studio coverage. That’s three studio shows live and operating at the same time from the one studio and control room space.
As for the Barclays Premier League, BT Sport will carry 38 regular season matches during the course of the season (Sky Sports shoulders the bulk of the load with 116 matches produced).
There are some key changes to the on-air product that BT is focusing on, including going with a three-commentator booth and adding an ex-referee on staff to provide input on selected games with opinions and detailed analysis.
Pregame and postgame will be regularly hosted pitch-side at the game that BT is airing that given weekend (typically the early Saturday afternoon and mid-week matches), and Hindhaugh notes that the production team is working on sharpening its presentation from the pitch-side studio and the transition to the ground.
“On the whole, we are building upon what was great coverage last year,” says Hindhaugh, “and its always in the back of our mind that we come across as professional presence and our audience feels like they are at the match.”
Elsewhere, the FA Cup broadcast rights will once again be shared by the BBC and BT Sport. The BBC will show up to 16 live matches, including Friday night games, while BT Sport have the rights to 25 games.
For the Europa League, BT will provice full studio coverage and simultaneous broadcast of up to 24 matches in a week.