BT Sport large screen applicationBT Sport

BT Sport is expanding the availability of its service with the launch of a large screen application for the Xbox One, Apple TV and Samsung Smart TV.

Since its launch in 2013, BT Sport has been available on Sky, BT TV, iOS, Android, and on the web. Although customers have been able to cast streams onto their television using Google Chromecast, the lack of support for other devices such as game consoles and smart TVs has been curious.

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This latest launch gives customers more choice on how they consume BT Sports’ content, while also making the service more independent of traditional television platforms when it comes to large screen viewing.

BT Sport Xbox app

‘Digital’ BT Sport subscriptions can be added onto BT or EE contracts while existing subscribers will get access to the applications at no extra cost.

Crucially, the applications will support 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) in the near future. At present, BT Sport 4K UHD had only been available on BT TV, meaning many more customers will be able to access the best possible picture quality. BT produces many events in 4K, including Premier League and UEFA Champions League soccer.

“It’s important to understand how our audience is changing,” BT Sport Chief Operating Officer Jamie Hindhaugh tells me. “Nearly 15-20% of all our audiences watch our live soccer on their mobile [but] this is about making [BT Sport] more accessible on multiple screens in your house and on the biggest screen available.

“I want to be immersed in that experience, so the [large screen app] makes sense … These big screen apps are 50fps and 1080p … the picture quality is really good

Hindhaugh says the apps have been designed with simplicity in mind, with users able to access the desired content in as few steps as possible. The apps are available from today but can only access the linear versions of the BT Sport channels.

The broadcaster wanted to make the app available in time for the second round of Champions League matches next week and will add on-demand content in time for next season.

“This is a long overdue move that brings BT Sport to more devices and screens and is great for sports fans who want to watch on the big screen,” adds Paolo Pescatore, an independent technology and telecoms analyst. “But this very much feels like a skinny bundle. Unlike the full fat bundle available on mobile devices, many features are missing such as on demand content, the enhanced player with additional match information and 360-degree highlights.”

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The lack of support for Android TV and PlayStation 4 is notable at this stage, but Hindhaugh says it will work to bring the large screen app to more devices in the near future.

“Smart TV’s are brilliant so why wouldn’t we look to make things more accessible?” he says.

BT Sport future

Hindhaugh discussed future technological innovations to the service, including the arrival of High Dynamic Range (HDR) picture quality this year and ongoing work in the field of object-based broadcasting (OBB).

OBB allows viewers to personalize their viewing experience by controlling elements such as audio and graphics. This might allow data-hungry fans to see more statistics during a match, those who want a more immersive experience to turn down the commentary feed, or blind or partially sighted viewers to turn on audio description.

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Such a capability could eventually lead to different camera feeds or commentaries, tailored for a specific group of fans.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) features are also on the horizon, as is a private video chat service that allows fans to have real-time video chats with three friends while watching BT Sport. Eleven Sport has offered a similar feature as broadcasters seek to recreate the social element of attending a match.

“It’s not about being first,” concludes Hindhaugh. “We had a clear strategy from when we launched six years ago and that was to be at the heart of sport and to make you feel like you’re at the stadium. We don’t [add features] just to be first – if it doesn’t fit our editorial strategy, we don’t do it.”

 

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