Teleportation on M6, new digital formats in the media, cascades of comments and conversations on the social networks: even before the final of the Euro 2016 has taken place, we already know that digital technologies have won the championship.
The Euro 2016 is the opportunity to celebrate the best teams, the best match moments and the numerous records. Sports championships always abound with stats. Number of goals, tries, average speed of the Tour de France peloton, the service speed or number of aces at Wimbledon, etc.: with three major sporting events going on simultaneously, the beginning of July will be awash with data, as will August with the Olympics in Rio.
The use of digital technologies on the playing fields – sometimes even on the athletes themselves – in public places and in the media is generating a new avalanche of information and a multitude of new experiences for viewers.
Augmented reality: M6 goes futuristic
French TV channel M6 has excelled itself at the Euro 2016. Thanks to the new technologies (augmented reality and fibre optic) it used for its pre-and post-match programmes, it made quite an impression in France and overseas. The highlight was when it beamed a female presenter onto the pitch and players and coaches to the network’s set a few minutes after the end of the match, thanks to augmented reality and a hologram.
With this immersive experience, M6 almost stole the spotlight from the players. But this gimmick was the result of painstaking preparation, as the channel’s Managing Director explained to Programme-TV.net: “First we had to convince the players to do it, then we brought them to a separate studio at the stadium. We put them in front of a Chroma key backdrop so we could composite their image onto a different background. The most important thing for this is having a fast enough connection so there’s no delay between the sound and image, so we had to link up the stadia via fibre optic and thus ensure near-perfect image and sound synchronisation.”
For the viewers, the magic of high-tech special effects came into their living rooms, thus giving them a glimpse into what the future of TV could be. Similar technology was already used by CNN in the States a few years ago, during the 2008 elections.
Football pitches get smart
Ahead of the Euro, the main venues in the host country all went digital: the Stade Olympique in Marseille was turned into a huge connected space thanks to a partnership with Orange. The operator deployed high-density Wi-Fi across the venue, with 1,000 access points that can support up to 20,000 simultaneous connections. And to mark the occasion – and its tenth anniversary – the stadium was rechristened Orange Vélodrome.
The Olympique Lyonnais stadium, meanwhile, had already undergone its digital transformation. To do this, it appointed a Chief Digital Officer, David Banget, in 2015. Inaugurated in early 2016, the OL was designed as the ultimate in cutting-edge digital technology and user experience, with Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G to support a range of connected services for supporters, including mobile social gaming, mid-match replays, GPS, e-tickets, parking space booking, purchasing products with chips and paying by smartphone, etc.
A total of €32 million has been invested by the leading French telecom providers (Bouygues, Orange, Free Mobile, Orange and SFR) to improve connectivity at all the stadia hosting the matches, including reinforcing the network and boosting it with 4G.
Supporters in the stands can thus watch instant replays on their smartphones, and take and send selfies and videos. French online tech mag ZDNet tested and rated the network performance of each of the various mobile providers at Stade de France, in terms of calls, upload and download speeds, watching HD YouTube, etc.
Print media goes digital too
But M6 aren’t the only ones using cutting-edge technology for the Euro: L’Équipe, France’s leading sports publication, has rolled out a number of interactive and digital innovations on its website and mobile app, including a guide to the Euro 2016, interactive profiles of all the players and teams, 360° tours of the 10 stadia, videos, polls, player scores, etc.
There’s no doubt about it: this Euro will be remembered, among other things, for the successful marriage of sport and digital technology.