Football in the metaverse: is the Serie A trial a sign of the future in sports broadcasting?
AC Milan’s pursuit of a first Serie A title in 11 years has provided plenty of drama and excitement for those in attendance at the San Siro this season.
But what about those watching in the metaverse?
On May 1, football fans in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region had the opportunity to enjoy a world first when Milan’s league game against Fiorentina was streamed to this virtual world. – an innovation that has yet to be attempted by any of the other major leagues.
“Metaverse” has become a popular word in the virtual world – so what does it mean?
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder who rebranded his company Meta last year, called it “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.”
He added: “In the metaverse you will be able to do almost anything you can imagine – get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create. Think about how many physical things you have today. today that might just be holograms in the future.Your TV, your perfect work setup with multiple monitors, your board games and more.
So why not watch a game there?
That’s the hope those running Serie A have as they try to broaden the appeal of the league.
Serie A has given 10,000 fans across the Mena region the ability to access its virtual room on the metaverse, equipped with features such as a chat to interact with other users, a quiz to play and a score screen. television to watch the match, via a unique and free system. digital tokens.
Sayed Hassan Al Mousawi, 26, from Bahrain, was one of more than 7,000 fans who tuned in virtually for the Milan-Fiorentina game.
He entered the metaverse at home using a connected device (it could be a phone, tablet, laptop or PC) and moved around (well, his avatar) via a touchscreen .
In the virtual room he entered, there was a virtual TV screen and on this TV screen, the game could be watched like on a standard TV (see image below).
He could also make his choice of general or match-related statistics via these two areas of the virtual world…
Or chat with people and “like” comments via these buttons…
“I could watch the game, run and read stats with my avatar,” says Al Mousawi. “I also put on the new Serie A anti-racism campaign kit.
“I’m a software developer, so for me it was very easy to access the game. I downloaded an app, used the link provided on social networks and entered the metaverse with my phone. The connection was stable , no lag at all. One problem was that I couldn’t go full screen or zoom, and it was annoying.”
The Italian soccer league is reaching out to so-called Generation Z, a young and supposedly inattentive audience who want to interact with their peers while watching a match. The idea is that they can do all of this without leaving their digital world.
Serie A claims to have around 520 million fans worldwide, but most are over 35 and with nearly every big name in the game playing in England or Spain, a step in a different direction was perhaps inevitable.
After a pilot project to understand the potential of this new way of distributing the game, the objective will now be to use it to generate revenue.
It could also have a ripple effect on broadcasters. This trial in the Mena region was only possible because there is no official Serie A broadcaster there. This would not have been possible in Italy at the moment, where Sky and DAZN have the rights to broadcast matches. However, when the contracts are renewed, Serie A could share the rights to broadcast the games on the metaverse and sell them to whoever wants to buy them.
The move is the league’s latest step in trying to modernize. It all started two years ago with the launch of eSerie A – an official eSports competition. Serie A has also entered the controversial world of cryptocurrency – it signed the first sponsorship program between a football league and a cryptocurrency platform in May last year.
Serie A has also expanded its broadcast infrastructure, opening its new International Broadcast Center last October in Milan. At the center, all top-flight Italian games are produced, edited, sent to broadcasters and commented on in Italian, Arabic and English. Five virtual ad streams, displayed on LED panels located in different countries around the world, are created for each game. People watching the match in the United States see different ads than those watching the same match in Italy.
Does this pioneering attitude pave the way for revolutionary distribution possibilities? Serie A seems to believe so. The future could be that you can wear VR goggles and be transported to the San Siro or any other stadium, taking the experience to a whole new level.
“We have chosen to be the first to broadcast a football match in the metaverse because we believe that the frontier of technological innovation is extremely important for a modern league such as Serie A”, said the general manager of the company. organization, Luigi de Siervo.
Would Al Mousawi watch a game in the metaverse again?
“Overall it was a nice experience but if I had to I would rather pay to watch a game on a computer or TV as the small screen size was an issue. I’m a fan Inter, so when the Nerazzurri play I’m pretty focused. I’ll have minor games there, but not the big ones.”
Opinions are still divided, which is typical for a period of transition.
It is difficult to predict how things will develop, because what we see in football is only a reflection of larger social changes.
But it’s worth remembering that not so long ago a pay-TV model was controversial and seemed unlikely to succeed. A few years ago, game streaming on the internet seemed like a technological fantasy. Then came the second and third screens, and now the metaverse. Everything is possible.