BT Sport will continue its tradition of broadcasting the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League finals for free in the U.K. on YouTube as a showcase of its service and technological capabilities.
It first streamed the finals on YouTube in 2016 – the first season BT Sport held the rights to the competitions – and offered a 360-degree Virtual Reality (VR) feed for the Champions League final in 2017 and 2018. Finals have also been shown in 4K on BT TV.
Broadcast rights differ from country-to-country but the combination of a leading broadcaster with the world’s biggest streaming platform is notable for both commercial and technological reasons.
Past live broadcasts staged by the two parties have attracted millions of viewers and have demonstrated the viability of streaming as a genuine alternative to linear television channels when trying to expand the reach of the competitions.
Free UEFA Champions League final
The disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic last year meant the final stages of both competitions were compressed into mini-tournament in Portugal and Germany at the end of last season and there was little scope for technical innovation.
This year, the finals return to their usual format. The all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea takes place in Porto, Portugal on Saturday, May 29th , after Manchester United faces Spanish side Villareal in Gdansk, Poland on Wednesday, May 26th.
For the first time, the YouTube stream will be available in 4K Ultra-High Definition and in 60fps, while viewers on the BT App will be able to sample other features usually reserved for subscribers. This includes ‘Watch Together’, which allows multiple users to watch a sporting event at the exact same time. The final will also be free on the Virgin Media TV platform.
As ever, BT hopes wider exposure to its services will encourage viewers without a subscription to sign up.
“After a difficult year for everyone, it’s exciting to be approaching the end of the soccer season with three English teams making it through to the European finals plus the option of watching it with family and friends in person,” said Simon Green, head of BT Sport. ”Anyone can watch the final, on BT Sport or for free online or on YouTube, or by downloading the BT Sport App and trying out Match Day Experience features such as the enhanced player and Watch Together.”
YouTube has positioned itself as an ideal partner for rights holders over the past few years, with highlights of most major soccer competitions now available. It is pleased that it can show the finals in the best possible quality and establish itself as a destination for sports fans.
The involvement of three of England’s biggest teams, combined with a desire for friends and family to meet each other after the easing of indoor lockdown restrictions in the U.K. earlier this month, means the finals could break records for YouTube.
“We’re proud and excited to partner BT Sport to bring the two biggest matches in European club soccer to British viewers for the sixth year running, including our third all-English final in this year’s UEFA Champions League,” added Ben McOwen Wilson, Manager Director of YouTube UK.
“With restrictions lifting, no doubt many fans will be looking forward to meeting with friends and family to watch the beautiful game on the big screen. This year BT and YouTube will deliver the highest quality streams in Ultra High Definition and for the first time high frame rate (60fps) to allow all our viewers to have the best possible free viewing experience, wherever they are.
“Soccer is in this country’s DNA and the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League finals have always attracted record-breaking viewing figures on the platform.” Forbes