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LaLiga readies broadcast innovations, Sky and BT unveil Premier League plans

Eibar and Real Sociedad play out the last LaLiga match before the season's suspension (by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

LaLiga, the organising body of the top two divisions of Spanish club football, has unveiled a series of broadcast innovations for when the top tier resumes its 2019-20 season later this week.

News of the innovation plans come with the English Premier League’s main domestic broadcasters Sky and BT Sport, the pay-television duo, having detailed their broadcast  plans for the restart of another of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues.

The top-tier LaLiga is due to resume after its Covid-19 suspension with the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on Thursday.

LaLiga has focused on the virtualisation of stands and fan audio, as well as new camera positions and the images they will offer to viewers. These will be carried out with the help of partners and implemented by the Mediapro agency, the official production agency of LaLiga.

The biggest change for the return of the competition is the virtualised broadcasting that LaLiga will offer to international broadcasters. For these broadcasts, stadium stands will be virtualised, offering to-scale images of seated fans wearing the colours of the home club.

To develop this digital experience, LaLiga worked with Norwegian technology company Vizrt. In moments when the game is stopped, this image of fans can be transformed into a canvas that matches the colour of the home team and will carry LaLiga messages, among other offerings.

Game broadcasts will also feature virtual sound through collaboration with EA Sports’ Fifa video game, in a project called ‘Sounds of the Stands’.

The audio library of LaLiga’s official sponsor EA, which was recorded in real stadia, has been used and digitally adapted so that it can be implemented in real time during the match. It will be adapted to the flow of the game as certain situations occur, such as a goal or a foul, creating what is known as ‘Atmospheric Audio’.

Matches will also be viewed differently through new camera positions. Some cameras will shift their location to positions where they would previously have affected the sightline of fans in the stands. The aerial camera will modify its flight path to offer new shots, the bench camera will be moved to the opposite stand, while robotic cameras will be used in the tunnel for reasons of health safety.

All of these changes will be maintained as long as matches have to be played behind closed doors.

Javier Tebas, the LaLiga president, said: “We have made these broadcasting changes so fans can enjoy LaLiga. We work with global partners to offer a great viewer experience. We are in an exceptional situation, but for us it has been important to be able to adapt and offer a compelling, cutting-edge broadcast to our fans.”

LaLiga announced last month that it would resume its 2019-20 season on June 11 and play matches every day for at least the first week. The final 11 rounds of the season, for both the top-tier LaLiga and second-tier Segunda División, are to be completed by July 19.

Crowd noise during Premier League broadcasts

Elsewhere, Sky Sports has said it will include crowd noise and catch-up options as part of a range of new innovations when its Premier League coverage returns on June 17.

Working with EA Sports Fifa, Sky Sports has created a range of bespoke and team-specific crowd noises and chants to enhance the atmosphere of closed doors games. Viewers can select the Sky channel to watch with the added sound or with stadium noise.

Other new features include the ‘Sky Sports Recap’ service, allowing viewers to catch up on all the key highlights during live matches in a short burst. Each game will have a live timeline enabling viewers to quickly catch up on the highlights at any point during the match – even if they have not watched it from the beginning.

The ‘Sky Sports Fanzone’ will be a new feature on the Sky Sports website and app allowing viewers to watch select matches with friends in a video room and interact while the action unfolds. Sky said this will give them the chance to chat about the match and influence the crowd noise they hear on screen.

BT Sport said its viewers will have the option to watch games with or without a pre-recorded dynamic crowd noise feature, using the red button. In the coming weeks BT will also be launching ‘Watch Together’, allowing customers using the BT Sport app to watch, see and chat with friends in a split screen, while a match is being played.

Sky and BT Sport recently announced that they would resume charging subscribers this month, as live sport begins to return to their schedules. The Premier League represents the key rights property for both Sky and BT. The league’s targeted return to action on June 17 led to both broadcasters updating their plans.

Sky, which holds the bulk of the Premier League’s live rights in the 2019-22 cycle, will broadcast 64 of the remaining 92 matches from the 2019-20 season. It will make 25 matches in its quota available to free-to-air digital terrestrial viewers through its PickTV channel. These matches are those that Sky had previously not been scheduled to broadcast.

BT will show 20 matches, up from the eight it had originally been due to broadcast. The matches will only be available to BT Sport customers.