Crazy new age of World Cup TV
SBS is bringing the World Cup to Australian viewers like never before after dipping their toes into the new frontier of sports broadcasting.
The official free-to-air broadcaster of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup has unveiled its full guide for the world's biggest sporting event - and the "cutting edge" technology that will show the event like never before.
SBS on Wednesday launched its FIFA World Cup VR App in association with FIFA and Optus Sport, giving Aussie viewers the opportunity to watch games live through a virtual reality experience from within the event's Russian stadiums.
It all kicks off on Thursday night with the opening ceremony to be screened from 10.30pm before Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener from 1am on Friday morning at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
SBS will also show every Socceroos' game as part of their 25-match broadcast schedule throughout the month-long tournament.
Optus Sports has the rights to screen all 64 matches live through its streaming services.
SBS World Cup 2018 executive producer Stu Randall says its "cutting edge" app is following in the footsteps of the NBA's pursuit of new experiences for viewers.
The free app - which will be separate to the 2018 FIFA World Cup app - incorporates dedicated VR match content created at the venues, inviting viewers to experience the action from various positions inside stadiums with the ability to change between camera angles during live matches.
"This is a bit of a toe in the water for us, but it is very cutting edge technology, similar to what's been done in the NBA," Randall told news.com.au.
"We're excited to see how it goes. We think it will be a really nice screening addition to the World Cup."
He said the service isn't a gamble, because it is provided to official broadcasters in a partnership with the FIFA World Cup broadcasting service.
He also believes the technology has been refined to improve the reliability and quality for users.
"There's not a huge amount that's been done in that space," Randall said of VR.
"Obviously the issue in this country has always been our bandwidth available for these things - our excellent internet system in this country. There are some examples around the world that we've been able to look at and we're going to have some pretty cutting edge stuff in sports VR broadcasting.
"I don't think it's too much of a gamble. We already have 360 degree video products added to SBS. We've done augmented reality projects in the past. This is one of the services that we can actually pick up through the World Cup app. We're always trying to think about our audience first and think about ways that we can give them as good an experience as we possibly can."
SBS' NEW PRODUCTS FOR AUSSIE VIEWERS
THE virtual reality product is just one of many new offerings that SBS will give viewers this World Cup.
In a bid to meet the changing demands from Aussie fans for World Cup content, SBS has outlined plans to offer extensive content on social media and new timeslots to meet the demand for instant World Cup information.
Along with its two apps, SBS has also committed to an SBS Radio daily podcast series, to be hosted by star presenters Lucy Zelic and Craig Foster which will be available for Aussie fans every morning to re-cap the overnight action from Russia.
SBS has also intensified its Facebook and Twitter strategy, with plans to hold regular Facebook live broadcasts and Twitter Live segments from its Red Square studio in Moscow.
The big change from previous World Cups is the decision to scrap its light-entertainment panel program.
Instead of the light-hearted nightly comedy shows of previous tournaments, including The Full Brazilian at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, SBS has focused on an extended matchday production to be based out if its Moscow studio.
SBS will also screen a daily highlights show from 5.30pm (AEST).
THE SBS COMMENTARY TEAM
DESPITE the increased presence of Optus Sport, SBS has retained its core on-camera talent for the 2018 World Cup.
Randall said there will be just one less broadcast team on the ground in Russia than Brazil four years ago - despite SBS only broadcasting 25 matches this time.
SBS has been able to deliver a very similar line-up to the one that broadcast the Rio event.
The lead commentary duo for all Socceroos games will again be SBS veteran commentator David Basheer and Socceroos great Craig Moore.
SBS has also been able to secure the exclusive commentary services of English commentary superstar Martin Tyler, who returns to SBS following Sky Sport UK's failure to secure the World Cup rights.
Tyler will be the sole front-man in SBS's secondary broadcast team.
Between the two teams, Randall anticipates SBS will be able to cover around 22 World Cup matches - and will rely on the World Cup's Home Broadcast Service for the three or four games it is unable to cover because of the logistical headaches presented by Russia's vast expanse.
SBS has also picked up Socceroos great David Zdrilic as a roving reporter.
Football commentator Sebastian Hassett will also feature on the sidelines and as the official interviewer of Aussie coaches and players before and after games.
SBS WORLD CUP TV SCHEDULE
SBS's coverage of the Round of 16 and quarter-finals will be announced throughout the tournament.
Here is the preliminary schedule:
Thursday 14 June from 10.30pm Russia v Saudi Arabia, kick-off 1am
Saturday 16 June from 3.30am Portugal v Spain, kick-off 4am
Saturday 16 June from 7pm France v Australia, kick-off 8pm
Monday 18 June from 12am Germany v Mexico, kick-off 1am
Tuesday 19 June from 3.30am Tunisia v England, kick-off 4am
Tuesday 19 June from 9.30pm Colombia v Japan, kick-off 10pm
Wednesday 20 June from 9.30pm Portugal v Morocco, kick-off 10pm
Thursday 21 June from 9pm Denmark v Australia, kick-off 10pm
Friday 22 June from 9.30pm Brazil v Costa Rica, kick-off 10pm
Sunday 24 June from 3.30am Germany v Sweden, kick-off 4am
Sunday 24 June from 9.30pm England v Panama, kick-off 10pm
Monday 25 June TBC
Tuesday 26 June from 11pm Australia v Peru, kick-off 12am
Wednesday 27 June TBC
Thursday 28 June TBC
Wednesday 11 July from 3.30am Semi-Final 1, kick-off 4am
Thursday 12 July from 3.30am Semi-Final 2, kick-off 4am
Saturday 14 July from 11pm Playoff for 3rd, kick-off 12am
Sunday 15 July from 11pm World Cup Final, kick-off 1am
Optus Sports has all 64 games live.