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Is this the future of football on TV?

BT Sport certainly thinks so. Click the Play button on the video above and you can watch a system called 2immerse, BT Sport’s vision for how football will be televised in the not too distant future.

As you can probably make out from the footage – taken on a tour of BT’s Labs in Ipswich – you’re watching a wall of six different 4K screens, a setup you’re more likely to find a sports bar than the average semi. That said, it’s easy to envisage something similar being used for home broadcasts, as we continually migrate towards super-high definition screens in our living rooms.

The centre of the video wall is devoted to the regular match footage, similar to what you would get today with BT Sport and other sports broadcasters. The edges are used to deliver alternative camera angles. In some of the examples, the extra cameras focus on individual players; others are trained on the crowd or the dugouts. The examples you can see in the video are from the 2016 FA Cup Final, with a camera trained on Alan Pardew just as he makes a complete plank of himself with his infamous touchline tango.

Yet, as BT’s demo man points out in the video, the advantage of having a camera devoted to the bench is you can see how quickly Pardew snaps back into manager mode, swiftly calling forward two subs and delivering instructions. You wouldn’t have seen that in regular, single-stream broadcasts. The cameras would have cut away after Pardew’s mid-life crisis.

BT said it initially trialled two different pitch angles on either side of the screen, but viewers found it distracting. Instead, other screens placed in different parts of the pub are used to show alternate angles, so if a shot scrapes over the crossbar, you can turn to your left and see precisely how close it was from a camera mounted behind the goal.

Social feeds

Of course, this is 2017 and broadcasters feel we can’t last five minutes without knowing what Rio Ferdinand, sorry Rio Ferdinand’s Social Media Manager, thinks of the unfolding action at the bottom of the screen. Down there too are stats from the game and doubtless promos for all the other great stuff coming up on BT Sport later that evening, such as international Scrabble from the Holiday Inn, Bournemouth.

The feeds and commentary can also be regionalised, so if you’re watching BT Sport in the Prince George, down the road from Selhurst Park, they might choose the commentary from the more partisan local radio station, instead of Alan Parry. If you’re watching the game in a United constituency, such as Wimbledon or Guildford, you’ll get commentary from Terry Christian and tweets from your favourite-ever United player, Thierry Henry.

BT says this 2immerse system won’t only apply to football – it can be used for all kinds of sports, or even for news and entertainment. It’s due to go live next year. Barry Davies and a pack of pork scratchings, it ain’t.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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