Game-changing AR functionality for BT Sport app launched on EE 5G network
Features include AR on the go, 360 pitch-side, Stadium Experience and Manager Mode
EE has announced a set of groundbreaking new features for the BT Sport app that will see augmented reality (AR) elements added to live and non-live coverage of Premier League matches.
Using the new iPhone 12 over EE’s 5G network, the new features, called Match Day Experience, offer AR viewing on the go and 360 pitch-side viewing, along with Watch Together, launched by BT Sport in August this year, which allows fans to video chat with friends live in a unique split-screen view while also watching the game.
Functionality also includes an interactive timeline and multi-cam replays.
Starting on 24 October for BT Sport’s live featured Saturday lunchtime Premier League matches, BT Sport said that the new features will place fans at the heart of sport in the absence of being able to attend sporting events. With sports fans currently unable to watch live sport in stadiums, Match Day Experience features will offer an immersive and innovative viewing experience.
Helping fans engage with live sport
Speaking to journalists this week, BT Sport chief operating officer Jamie Hindhaugh said: “For me [Match Day Experience] is credible and that’s really important. The combination of all those features is a real step-change in how fans can engage with live sport, and at the same time also very poignant with the current coronavirus crisis.”
“We’ve looked for a while now at how we can give fans the experience that they get when they go to the ground; things like using AR to be able to go and look around inside a stadium. We’re actually going one step further than that.”
Christian Thrane, managing director, marketing, BT, commented: “It’s been a strange year for all of us. Fans are not able to come together to support their teams as they would in stadiums, or even watch together infront of the TV. It’s a difficult time for all of us, not least in the world of sports.
“EE and BT Sport have been working together to find new ways to offer our customers great experiences. We have developed a set of innovations that will enable fans to get closer to the sports they love in a way they’ve never been able to before,” Thrane noted.
Fast development during lockdown
The new functionalities have been developed quickly during lockdown, although BT Sport has been working on the concepts for some time. Hindhaugh said: “All of this has been developed alongside our remote production capture format during the pandemic, which is an amazing feat by everyone [in our teams].
“Watch Together we’ve been working on for nearly three years and obviously when the pandemic hit and fans couldn’t attend the grounds it obviously became much more of a priority,” added Hindhaugh. “It took a lot of development to make sure we could sync up the live game while you’re chatting to your friends [on Watch Together].
“We’ve looked for a while now at how we can give fans that experience that they get when they go to the ground; things like using augmented reality to be able to go and look around inside a stadium. We’re actually going one step further than that [with Match Day Experience], giving people access to things they wouldn’t normally have access to.
“But for me it’s about the strength of the combination of all of these [features]; they all flatter each other. When you’re watching a BT Sport Premier League game at 12.30pm with all of those additional features, it just moves it forward,” Hindhaugh went on.
“This really demonstrates of being part of BT Group, our relationship with EE. Being able to understand customer behaviours and how they can use connectivity really helps us develop these products that ensure sports fans get that ultimate experience,” he added.
iPhone 12 5G platform
The new features allow customers to take control of their own viewing experience.
Said Hindhaugh on the iPhone 12 5G-based smartphone: “What we’re really clear on here is this technology that we’re rolling out now, some of these experiences, you need the platforms to deliver them on to really maximise those benefits. We had a four year roadmap to go to remote production, which we delivered in five weeks. It’s all about focus and priorities, and for me and the brilliant product teams we have it’s about the opportunity, seeing a platform is available that could really start delivering on our vision, and pulling this together.
“Perversely, it should have taken longer, because the remote production transfer [for BT Sport’s productions] wasn’t simple, but it’s just how you apply yourself isn’t it? I’m a great believer that when there are things around you that don’t feel great, you always look around for those positives and put your energies into those. For the teams [at BT Sport] it meant that people were really engaged. It helps you get through what are current uncertain times,” Hindhaugh concluded.
At launch, the full set of Match Day Experience features will be available for BT Sport’s live Saturday lunchtime Premier League match. Selected features will also be available for additional BT Sport programming including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, the Emirates FA Cup, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, with availability expanding throughout the season.
Thrane went on: “We believe this is by far the most immersive sports experience out there. We’re obviously very excited to bring this out, particularly at this point in time where people are not able to go to the stadiums, we can bring the stadiums to them in a way that I think customers will genuinely appreciate.”
New functionalities in detail
On Watch, EE 5G iPhone 12 customers with the Full Works plan can create their own Watch Together rooms and invite any other BT Sport customer to join them to create a unique match viewing experience, including those on other mobile platforms. For those EE customers who take out the large screen access add-on, Watch Together can now be enjoyed on their living room television by pairing their mobile phone with an Apple TV
For 360 viewing, the enhanced Match Day Experience provides new levels of picture quality, without the experience of buffering thanks to 5G. A new ‘pinch and zoom’ functionality, developed with partner Tile Media using 8K capture, enables fans to home in on their desired areas of interest to make customers feel like they are at the ground. Also, 360 offers viewers the chance to select different camera angles and viewpoints, not normally seen in broadcast. See the video below for the 360 experience:
For Match Day Live, EE 5G customers can access team line ups, formations and in-game stats brought to life through AR from wherever they are watching the action.
And for the Stadium Experience, customers can use an AR doorway in the BT Sport app to be transported from wherever they are into exclusive behind the scenes experiences of leading football teams and sporting stadiums. Depending on the club and stadium, these include areas such as dressing rooms, dugouts, trophy rooms and tunnel areas.
Launching later this season for select events, BT Sport also announced that Dolby Atmos sound will be bringing games to life in full multi-dimensional audio, so customers can get the stadium experience on the go.
Finally, Manager Mode means viewers will have the choice of adding real time graphics as part of the match coverage augmented on the pitch. This feature provides informative and insightful stats, such as a mini-map tracking the positions of all players for a tactical viewpoint, plus player names, player speeds and more such as tracers marking the path of shots. See below to experience new Manager Mode:
Giving the best to customers
Marc Allera, chief executive at BT’s consumer division, said: “We continually look for ways to offer customers new and innovative services, allowing them to make the most from their smartphone. Our new Match Day Experience features will provide an amazing array of ways to enhance their sports viewing.”
Allera added: “We know the first job we’ve got to do is to build and continue to invest and build a mobile network that’s the UK’s best. But we know that’s not going to be enough for customers; they want the latest smartphones, applications and services that bring the network to life, and that’s where, through the partnerships we create and plans that we’re announcing today, we’re doing just that. Our customers have got so much to look forward to.”
Rio Ferdinand, BT Sport pundit and former England captain, said: “At this moment of social distancing and crowd-less stadia, Match Day Experience gets fans closer than ever to the sports they love. The features build on what is already the best sports app anywhere and will enable EE customers to enjoy the most immersive sports broadcasts seen to date.”
Customers taking out an exclusive EE Full Works Plan for iPhone between 16 October to 15 January 2021 will get 24 months of the BT Sport app with new Match Day Experience features included as part of their plan. EE Full Works customers also receive access to Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, as well as uncapped and unlimited mobile data.
An iPhone 12 user will be able to invite a BT Sport customer on an Android phone to Watch Together.
The full set of Match Day Experience features, except Dolby Atmos, will be available for BT Sport’s live featured Saturday lunchtime Premier League matches (as listed below). Selected features will be available around other events, and will be expanding throughout the season.
- 24 Oct – Premier League – West Ham United V Manchester City – 11.30am BT Sport 1
- 24 Oct – Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final – Exeter Chiefs v Wasps – 5.15pm BT Sport 1
- 27 Oct – UEFA Champions League – Marseille v Manchester City – 7pm BT Sport 2
- 28 Oct – UEFA Champions League – Manchester United v RB Leipzig – 7pm BT Sport 2
- 29 Oct – UEFA Europa League – Antwerp v Tottenham Hotspur – 5.15pm BT Sport 2
- 31 Oct – Premier League – Sheffield United V Manchester City – 12.30pm KO BT Sport 1
Some of these features will later be available for other sports, including rugby, Hindhaugh confirmed.
See below for a view of Watch Together: