BT Sport’s Matt Stagg: The metaverse is gaining momentum in sports broadcasting

Discovery Sports Events and Infinite Reality previewed a metaverse experience plus virtual content during the UCI Track Champions League in December 2022

The metaverse is here to stay and sports broadcasters need to be engaged in the development of this new virtual world, Matt Stagg, mobile and immersive director at BT Sport, has claimed.

We spoke to Stagg about the rise of the metaverse, how it will develop over 2023, and how the increasingly prevalent immersive virtual and augmented reality technologies will go hand in hand with its success.

‘Metaverse’ was the buzzword of 2022, but the general conclusion towards the end of the year was that for sports broadcasting, the ‘reality’ of it was still a long way off. What will 2023 be for the metaverse in this industry?

Whilst it’s difficult to predict the exact trajectory of the metaverse in sports broadcasting in 2023, it is likely that the industry will continue to explore and experiment with the technology. It’s possible that more immersive and interactive experiences will become available, but the full potential of the metaverse in this context may still take time to fully realise.

The rise of volumetric video and spatial audio in virtual worlds is expected to enhance the overall fan experience. 3D and holographic content will provide fans with an immersive experience, beyond what traditional 2D content can offer.

The use cases will start with smaller interactive events, such as Q&A sessions, awards ceremonies, and training tips, but as the technology improves and the rigs get bigger, we will see more and more applications, including in sports such as boxing and MMA.

It’s also likely that artificial intelligence (AI) will play a growing role in complementing extended reality (XR) development for live sports. AI can be used to improve various aspects of the XR experience, such as providing real-time analysis and insights, enhancing player tracking and performance analysis, and creating more engaging and interactive virtual environments.

The combination of AI and XR has the potential to revolutionise the way fans experience live sports.

What solid progress will be made in the sports broadcasting metaverse this year?

I believe we will see a number of advancements for the metaverse in sports broadcasting in 2023 which could include:

  1. Improved technologies for creating and hosting virtual events and environments.
  2. More partnerships and collaborations between sports organisations and metaverse companies, such as Sony partnering with Manchester City and Warner Bros. Discovery with Infinite Reality.
  3. Development of revenue models for monetising metaverse experiences.
  4. Increased investment and innovation in the metaverse sector by sports broadcasters and tech companies.

It’s important to note that the progress made will depend on various factors, including technological advancements, market trends, and consumer demand.

How will immersive technology complement the metaverse in sports? Why is it important?

Immersive technology such as virtual and augmented reality (AR), haptic feedback and 3D audio can complement the metaverse in sports in several ways:

  1. Enhanced viewing experiences: By providing a more immersive and interactive viewing experience, immersive technology can make the metaverse sports events more engaging and exciting for the viewers.
  2. Improved realism: Immersive technology can make virtual sports events feel more real and lifelike, by simulating real-world environments, physical movements, and sensory experiences.
  3. Increased interactivity: With haptic feedback, touch and other sensory inputs, viewers can interact with the virtual environment in new and exciting ways, making the experience more dynamic and engaging.
  4. Accessibility: Immersive technology can also make metaverse sports events more accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and those who are unable to attend real-world events.
  5. Data analysis: Immersive technology can also be used to gather and analyse performance data in real-time, providing valuable insights into player and team performance.

These are just some of the ways in which immersive technology can complement the metaverse in sports and enhance the overall experience for viewers and participants.

Do the metaverse and immersive technology go hand in hand for sports broadcasting?

Yes, the metaverse and immersive technology often go hand in hand for sports broadcasting. The metaverse provides a virtual world or environment where immersive technology such as virtual reality (VR) and AR can be used to create more immersive and interactive experiences for viewers. The combination of the two technologies can make virtual sports events more lifelike, engaging and interactive, and allow for new and innovative ways of experiencing and enjoying sports.

By using immersive technology in the metaverse, sports broadcasters can provide a more compelling and realistic virtual experience, allowing viewers to feel as though they are actually at the event, despite being physically remote. This can open up new opportunities for engaging fans, enhancing the overall viewing experience, and increasing revenue for the industry.

Have the two technologies both reached a tipping point?

It’s difficult to say if the metaverse and immersive technologies have reached a tipping point for sports broadcasting as the technology is still in its early stages and its adoption and impact are still being evaluated. However, there have been recent advancements and investments in the technology, which suggest that it is gaining momentum in the sports broadcasting industry.

The increasing popularity of virtual and augmented reality technology, the growth of esports, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the trend towards virtual events, have all contributed to the growing interest in the metaverse and immersive technologies for sports broadcasting.

Reaching a tipping point means that the metaverse and immersive technologies have gained enough traction and are now poised for significant growth and widespread adoption in the sports broadcasting industry. This could lead to a shift in how sports events are broadcast and consumed, with virtual events and the metaverse becoming an increasingly important part of the sports entertainment landscape.

However, it is important to note that the full potential and impact of the metaverse and immersive technologies in sports broadcasting are still being explored, and the technology will continue to evolve and develop over time.

Finally, what happens if broadcasters let this opportunity pass them by? Will they really be missing out on anything?

The potential impact of not doing so is that sports broadcasters risk being left behind as fans increasingly seek out more immersive and interactive experiences. They may also miss out on the opportunity to reach new audiences and generate new revenue streams that can be created through metaverse and XR technologies.

In a rapidly changing media landscape, sports broadcasters that fail to embrace new technologies risk becoming obsolete.





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