BT Sport Moves Further Towards 8K Broadcasts
BT Sport has successfully delivered the UK's first live 8K broadcast of a top-tier sporting event into the home.
The pay-TV broadcaster has been promising to do this for several years and was thwarted by COVID from doing so earlier.
It is understood that BT Sport does not have plans to launch an 8K service. It has in recent times stated its potential ambition to launch a premium 8K tier in time.
It would be a logical step for BT Sport ,which continues to fly the flag for innovation in sports broadcasting even while it is being auctioned off by parent owner BT Group to Discovery (and potentially DAZN).
The trial run involved the broadcast of a Saracens v Bristol Bears Gallagher Premiership Rugby match (on March 26) and followed the UK's first public live 8K sports broadcast (a UEFA Europa League soccer tie between Arsenal and Olympiacos in 2020) which was available to view to select fans watching on Samsung QLED 8K TVs at Arsenal's home stadium.
Back in 2019, BT Sport had also tested 8K by delivering a live broadcast of a rugby match from London to viewers at trade show IBC in Amsterdam.
It is also heavily involved in 5G trials as well as developing applications in augmented reality around live sports. Everything it does is in an effort to deliver on a more immersive sports experience.
Jamie Hindhaugh, chief operating officer, BT Sport, said in a release: "BT Sport continues to lead the industry with innovation that provides our customers with the best sports viewing experience in the UK. Whether it's last season's launch of the Matchday Experience features on our App, or, our recent trials of 5G-enabled augmented reality viewing, we're on a mission to take our viewers to the heart of sport."
The trial also enabled BT Sport to further explore OB and production workflows for live 8K broadcasts – testing the ability to run 8K HDR with match coverage, domestic presentation and playout including ad insertion.
It was conducted with a host of partners. Sony 8K cameras recorded the action with feeds coordinated and switched in 8K mobile supplied by EMG UK.
Appear provided 8K contribution encoders and decoders integrated into BT's Vena contribution network. Synamedia provided the 8K distribution/streaming encoder and origin server. Samsung provided its QN800 Neo QLED 8K TVs for viewing at BT Sport's Stratford (East London) Studios.
In a quote supplied by BT Sport, Elke Hungenaert, VP, Product Management, Synamedia, said, "Empowering 8K viewing, as BT has proven, addresses demands for more immersive experiences that bring sports fans closer to the game with pin-sharp sports scenes. There's no need to wait any longer—the future of streaming live sports successfully in 8K has officially arrived."
That may be the case, but BT Sport may not be the platform that will see it launched commercially.
The BT Group has pumped billions into the pay-TV arm which it set-up as a rival to Sky in 2013. This money has mainly gone on wresting Premier League and Champions League soccer rights in a bid to incentive customers to switch from Sky and buy into BT's broadband (with sports bundled in).
Although BT Sport has only a few million customers, it does turn just a small profit. But BT is now focused on a £15bn roll out of 5G across the UK and late last year put the division up for sale.
It has been in exclusive talks since February with Discovery (after DAZN dropped out) to create a joint venture that will include BT Sport, although this needs regulatory approval.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), owned by a consortia of public free-to-air broadcasters, has launched a new global sports DTC streaming platform that will include coverage of the America's Cup from Spain later this year.
Project supported by The Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport as part of 5G Create programme to develop new use cases and 5G technical capabilities
With production challenge solved, smarter AI upscaling and enhanced codec technologies will enable 8K streaming to the home—inevitably.
Last night's 8K demo at Emirates Stadium was more than just proof of concept. It could herald a commercial 8K service sooner than anyone thought possible.