BT Sport’s Hindhaugh reveals plans to increase live UHD event coverage

As Sky Sports readies its UHD channel this summer, BT Sport is upping the ante by broadcasting all 42 English Premier League matches to which it has live rights from next season. BT Sport’s COO Jamie Hindhaugh revealed that, in addition, even more 4K transmissions will be added to the BT Sport Ultra HD channel.

“We’ve made 52 live UHD outside broadcasts to date and we’re looking to expand,” he said. “From next season we will air every single EPL game and will enhance a number of other events and football matches  including more UEFA Champions League tieswith live UHD.”

To this end the broadcaster is working with its existing suppliers to ensure it has the facilities ready. The suppliers include Arena, which is building three large UHD trucks and in the final year of 38 match per year EPL coverage for BT Sport in HD; and Telegenic which covers rugby league for BT Sport and has recently equipped its T25 4K vehicle with 14 Sony HDC-4300s.

Despite testing High Dynamic Range (HDR), including with the BBC on America’s Cup and FA Cup transmissions, BT Sport will not be adding HDR into its UHD mix until 2017. “There is a danger of causing confusion to consumers who are only just upgrading to 4K TVs,” said Hindhaugh. “We don’t think the industry needs to be confusing the issue today by asking them to go out buy and an HDR-enabled one.”

Hindhaugh said BT Sport is actively trialing the technology and is positive about HDR forming part of its workflow, but not before 2017.

‘There are two main formats for HDR and we’ve trialled both but the standards and the technical pipeline is still not settled,” said Hindhaugh. “The BBC [HDR] version is easier to implement we feel but we are not just BT Sport we are BT TV so we need to look at the version the movie houses have. We think there is a future in which both versions can be played out.”

BT has shot eight events as a HD and UHD simulcast and needs to find ways of doing this efficiently to fulfill its agreement with rights holders.

Explains Hindhaugh, “The big challenge is that the contract we have with rights holders calls for a minimum camera spec around HD and minimum delivery standards. So we need to capture in 4K as would capture in HD and downres the 4K for an HD feed. We are confident this is possible and you will see us doing more and more of it.”

The BT executive was also bullish on Virtual Reality, having trialled the technology with LiveLike at the NBA Games at the O2 in January.

“VR is really an enhancement of the linear broadcast. I don’t personally believe people want to watch a whole live event that way and the lesson from 3D about sport is that 3D limits the enjoyment of sport as a group viewing experience. That said, there are 10 million households with games [machines] in the UK and that is where VR will leap from. If you have a VR streaming app and some live content that is the direction we are looking at.”

BT has been open about sharing its UHD workflow learnings with broadcasters including Canadian cable co. Rogers with whom it shot the NBA match between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors at The O2.

“We’ve had most of the major European broadcasters come and look at how we’ve done 4K and sharing the challenges and opportunities. Working with Rogers for example we were the first broadcaster to deliver live 4K into North America. We are very pragmatic and open about supporting other country’s journey into 4K because we it helps the market grow and makes more content available.”

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