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Football goes online

News, 13 May 2016

LONDON: The decision by BT Sport to show this month's two major European football finals on YouTube and Manchester City's experiments with VR highlight how both broadcasters and sport are having to adapt in the face of changing consumer habits and new technology.

BT Sport yesterday confirmed it would be showing the Champions League and Europa League finals free on YouTube and expected it would pull in millions of fans who don't currently subscribe to the channel, The Drum reported.

John Petter, chief executive of BT Consumer, said the move would bring BT Sport to "a new generation of younger sports fans who view their entertainment online, through social media and on their mobile devices".

And, with that in mind, he announced an intention "to make these finals the most social sports broadcast ever, with lots of exciting content in the build-up and on the night across YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine".

The decision also opens up a range of new digital opportunities for brands and advertisers to engage with football fans in the UK.

Manchester City's hopes of being in one of those finals were dashed by Real Madrid but the club is at the forefront of activities exploring how new technologies can be harnessed to enhance the fan experience: last weekend it tested a live virtual reality broadcast of a home game with fans in London, New York and Melbourne.

"I don't think that the experience is ready to replace watching it live or even TV," admitted Diego Gigliani, Manchester City's director of marketing and media, "but it shows the amazing opportunities of what it can do."

The biggest hurdles to be overcome are the reliable connectivity and high upload speeds required for live VR, but he posited a future where fans can buy virtual tickets to live games – in conjunction with the broadcast rights holder.

Previously, Gigliani and his team created "VR for the masses", giving away City-branded cardboard viewers to enable fans to view, for example, the players during a training session.

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff