Staging the Final Four without fans inside Lanxess Arena has presented unique challenges to which Euroleague Basketball has responded by using cutting-edge technology to bring fans as close as possible to the action despite their physical absence.
The event has been designed with a strong focus on broadcasting, ensuring that the best experience for fans watching from afar. Numerous improvements have been made to the international feed that is distributed to hundreds of territories across the globe, with two major innovative first-time experiences added to complement the traditional output.
Firstly, Augmented Reality will take center stage, especially during the pre-game shows. Created by the Filmmaster, it will make numerous elements come to life right from the court to the screens, providing a first-of-its-kind presentation of the climactic weekend of the European club basketball season.
Virtual Reality will also make its first-ever appearance in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. YBVR, finalists of the 2019 FanXP Innovation Challenge, will deliver a virtual experience never seen before in European sports, with four 180-degree cameras installed in the backboards and along the sidelines giving full control to viewers to choose from 12 different live feeds and direct their own broadcasts. This VR immersive experience is available for 14,210 fans (the usual capacity of Lanxess Arena) to purchase at StubHub, EuroLeague's official ticketing platform.
Fan can also live the Final Four weekend almost if they were a player through the Final 4 Fans digital show, which will stream a huge variety of live and on-demand content across four days. From Thursday to Sunday, a continuous stream of exclusive content will be broadcast on the league's official Facebook and YouTube channels, as well as through a number of partner platforms. This show will be powered by the technology of another FanXP Innovation Challenge finalist, Watchity.
During the actual games, a select number of fans will be "inside" the arena by taking a place in a virtual seating area that will be displayed across a 46-meter x 3.5-meter Fan Wall along the sideline. By live streaming video of themselves watching the game, they will feature on the television broadcasts and be visible to players inside the arena.
Technology will also play a key role in enabling fans to catch every detail around the action, even those that many times go unnoticed. Optical player tracking, for example, will be deployed by pioneer company Second Spectrum, creating engaging content through their machine game understanding technology.
The sounds of the game will also heard as never before, with head coaches and referees mic'd up during the action, bringing the noises and the emotions of the court to the television and mobile screens worldwide in the form of post-game content.
The sports media has always been loyal to the Final Four, and in usual circumstances more than 400 journalists from all continents are present. On this occasion that number has been strongly impacted by the pandemic and restrictions on travel, but Euroleague Basketball will use technology and provide remote accreditations to facilitate the work of the hundreds of accredited media who can question the players from afar, providing another valuable bridge between the action in Cologne and the fans.