BBC confirms iPlayer 4K HDR trials for 2018 World Cup

(Original author By  Andy Madden)

You’ll be able to watch all 29 of BBC One’s World Cup games in 4K on iPlayer – with a couple of caveats…

We’ve been waiting to see if the BBC would announce a 4K trial during this year’s World Cup and, finally, our prayers have been answered.

The BBC has confirmed it will broadcast all 29 live matches due to be shown on BBC One on its iPlayer service in 4K and HDR (high dynamic range). You’ll need a compatible 4K TV or 4K set-top box running a compatible version of the BBC iPlayer app to take advantage of both picture technologies.

You’ll also need to be online bright and early – access to the streams will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The Ultra HD stream will be visible on the iPlayer home screen as soon as coverage starts, and remain there until the trial is fully taken up for each match.

Despite this, the BBC’s press release still says “the trial will be available to tens of thousands of people” so hopefully there’ll be room for everyone. You can find a full list of compatible TVs and set-top boxes on the BBC iPlayer website.

Matthew Postgate, BBC Chief Technology and Product Officer, said “the BBC has brought major live broadcasting breakthroughs to UK audiences throughout the history of the World Cup. From the very first tournament on TV in 1954 and England’s finest hour in 1966, to the first colour World Cup in 1970 and Full HD in 2006. Now with these trials we’re giving audiences yet another taste of the future.”

The 4K streams will be bolstered by the addition of HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR which, in theory, should provide a twofold boost to picture quality. Don’t worry if your TV hasn’t got HLG support – the BBC claims you’ll still be able to enjoy improved picture quality on standard dynamic range displays too.

The BBC will be using adaptive bitrate technology to alter the resolution of the stream on the fly. According to the Corporation, users will need internet speeds of at least 40Mbps to experience the full-fat 4K resolution, while those with at least 20Mbps will see 2560p as the maximum horizontal resolution. This sits somewhere between 4K and Full HD resolution.

720p and 1080p resolutions will also be available, all at 50Hz and all in HLG.

The BBC also recommends (as would we) your 4K TV is hooked up to the internet through a wired connection to keep your 4K experience as stable as possible.

In recent months, the BBC has dropped a couple of big hints it’s gearing up for a World Cup in 4K having trialled a whole rugby league match and the second half of the recent FA Cup Final in UHD resolution. 

Not content with a 4K first, the BBC will also be showing the World Cup in virtual reality. All 33 of its matches will be made available to view in VR – you’ll be able to view the games from your own virtual box inside the stadium, accessing stats and highlights packages while you do so. You’ll even be able to switch your view to behind the goals to get even closer to the action.

You’ll need to download the dedicated BBC Sport VR – FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 app. Its launch is imminent, and the app will be free to download on Apple (iOS 10 and above), Android (5 and above), Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR. The BBC recommends an internet connection of at least 10Mbps.