Warner Bros. Discovery unveiled its first metaverse platform created with Infinite Reality at the UCI Track Champions League Season 2 Finals in London on December 2-3.
The Track Champions League has become the “laboratory” for the broadcaster’s plans in Web3, as Discovery Sports Events chief Francois Ribeiro explained during the beta unveiling. A full release is expected for season three, with images featured here to show what is expected of the final product.
The first tangible step of the partnership between the two companies, announced in October, Ribeiro warned: “We don’t expect everything we do to be a success”, adding: “We have decided to stop scratching our head and say, what to do with the metaverse? The reality is that we will learn as people get on with it. How do they use it? How do they interact with this? What do they think?
The Track Champions League metaverse platform has big ambitions, starting with areas to watch live cycling, highlights and behind-the-scenes docuseries from the Back On Track competition, talk to other users and browse merchandise. and NFTs. Currently only a test version that was run at the season two finale in London, the platform hopes to add further merchandise opportunities, video explanations of the sport and direct access to participating athletes before, after and maybe even during the event.
Users can currently connect on desktop browsers, with mobile platforms to be added, and talk to each other through webcams or experience content on offer. Headset access has been tested but is not currently possible, and may be added once the public adopts the technology more.
When it comes to live streaming and highlights, Ribeiro revealed that the platform aims to give “a kind of access that you normally would never have, even as a VIP. We want to give people the opportunity to figure out how we produce this global feed so we’re going to put a live camera in the OB van just behind the live director… we’re going to put a camera behind the show caller, the guy who controls all your lights, sound, push the content to the LED screens… we want to get the camera as close to the UCI referee as possible… we’re going to put a live camera on the stage manager, the guy who talks to all the riders to make sure they start their event on time.
There are also cameras on the individual bikes, with Infinite Reality Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder Elliott Jobe mentioning: “One of the fun times was meeting one of the athletes and hearing how their family was so excited to be able to stay connected through the whole experience.”
The Track Champions League aims to bring more data to track cycling than ever before, including all-new metrics, as explained by the SVP of Content and Production at Warner Bros. Discovery Europe Scott Young and UCI Track Champions League Series Director Florian Pavia at Broadcast Sports last month. This is also being brought to the metaverse, but with greater flexibility due to the ability for users to change what they want to see. Jobe revealed, “Now fans can choose what they want to see what they follow and how much data overlay they want to have,” while watching live content. Data panels sat on either side of the feed in the beta, with users able to hide them or change what they display.
Another feature that may be coming in the future, although perhaps not in time for Season 3, is the ability to run athletes themselves through home cycling systems such as Peloton. Ribeiro said: “We absolutely dream of having the opportunity for fans to compete from home, from their home trainer, in the metaverse against their friends, but also to compare their own performance against [athletes].”
This is just the first effort from Warner Bros. Discovery on a metaverse platform, with FIM Speedway expected to come next in 2023. Ribeiro confirmed that there will be two more sports added in 2024 and 2025 next, but which have not been confirmed: “It could be the motor racing, it could be motorcycling, it could be mountain biking. Who knows?”