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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK

Sport: Football

'Play TV' on the way

Arsenal and Manchester United will make television history

Armchair football fans will soon be able to play as they watch when interactive match coverage kicks off.

Digital television will allow viewers to dictate what they see on their screens.

With a touch on the remote controller they can change camera angles and call up instant replays.

[ image: Revolution at the touch of a button]
Revolution at the touch of a button
They will also be able to chose highlights and more statistics.

The first game to get the interactive treatment is the clash between Manchester United and Arsenal on August 22.

It is being screened on Sky Sports Extra and is a first for British television.

Viewers will be able to roll the action back 30 seconds at any time for tailor-made replays.

They can also access statistics like the number of shots on goal or facts about a particular player.

[ image: Choose your own camera angle]
Choose your own camera angle
At first, the only alternative camera angle will be from behind the goal but Sky are promising more options later in the season.

The live action can still be viewed at all times on the left of the screen.

Interactive technology will also allow viewers to chose from one of four Uefa cup matches being played on the same night.

The Chief Executive of BSkyB, Tony Ball, said:

"We changed the way football was covered in this country. I think we revolutionised it.

[ image: Viewers can pick matches]
Viewers can pick matches
"We are about to take a step change in the way sport is consumed in this country."

The new pleasure comes at a price. Subscribers who want to surf the sporting action will have to pay £27 a month.

Sky is first in the field with interactive football coverage but is already locked in battle with one of the other digital providers, ONdigital.

Jointly owned by the ITV companies, Granada and Carlton, it has also made football its big selling point.

The Uefa Champions League is ONdigital's jewel in the crown.

On Wednesday nights through the season it will be showing live coverage of one the games featuring British clubs.

Manchester United, European Cup holders, and Arsenal are already in the Champions League proper.

Chelsea and Rangers are hoping to join them through the qualifying round.

[ image: Watching TV will be a different experience]
Watching TV will be a different experience
On one of its other channels, ONdigital will show the other eight matches being played around Europe.

The difference with Sky is that ONdigital will choose what action is shown, rather than viewers themselves.

The BBC is in the digital sports market place as well with action available on BBC Choice.

It is the latest chapter in the revolution in television sport.

The simple action replay was innovative in its time.

Channels changing

Then the Australian media tycoon, Kerry Packer, changed cricket coverage forever by using far more cameras and offering many different angles.

Channel 4 are continuing the trend with televisual analysis of the action in their coverage of home Test matches.

With digital technology, the possibilities are almost endless.

Because so much more information can be sent over smaller airwaves, there is a lot more that broadcasters can offer.

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