The BBC Will Deliver World Cup 2018 In 4K HDR & Even VR, But With Catches
Stephan Jukic – June 2, 2018
After years of experimental broadcasts and other testing, the BBC is finally moving into full delivery of live 4K broadcasts for the public, starting with the upcoming FIFA World Cup matches in June. However, as seems to be typical of the public broadcasting corporation, there will be some catches involved.
There has been a lot of recent speculation about whether or not live 4K UHD broadcasts of this year’s World Cup would be coming to the public from the BBC itself and at least that issue has finally been resolved. While we’ve known for weeks that certain other broadcasters would indeed be offering live 4K World Cup coverage to their subscribers, the major holdout on a concrete statement was the BBC. Now, as it turns out, while yes, there will be live deliver of the soccer (or football for you European readers) matches to a public audience, certain major conditions and exceptions will apply.
Most crucially, the live coverage will technically still count as an experimental production because even though it’s going to be on offer via BBC’s iPlayer app, the number of spots available for users who want to stake access will be limited and on a first come, first serve basis. The BBC hasn’t declared exactly how many spots they will be opening but their public statement claims a number somewhere in the “tens of thousands”, which if you think about it isn’t really nearly enough.
Most importantly though, for those who grab their spot on the iPlayer app, these will indeed be public consumption live broadcasts with all the trimmings attached: aside from 4K resolution, they will also offer full HDR mastering in the BBC-sponsored HLG format (which most modern 4K HDR TVs do indeed support) As an impressive added bonus, the live FIFA matches will even be available in VR as part of the same offering to those with compatible devices. For this the BBC has developed a specialty app called BBC Sport VR – FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, which will let anyone who has a compatible smart phone or VR headset and the right level of connectivity enjoy all 33 matches live in virtual reality, if they prefer this to the pure 4K HDR version. Unlike the 4K offering, this VR option will be available to all users of the iPlayer VR app download for Android, iOS, Gear VR, Oculus Go or PlayStation VR owners.
It’s worth mentioning that the VR app component will let viewers take in daily highlights via virtual “big screens” inside their VR viewer while simultaneously watching the live action. There will also be options for viewpoint switching in VR, allowing users to place their POV right behind the goal posts. The BBC is recommending connectivity of at least 10Mbps for smooth enjoyment of all these VR coverage options on the compatible devices.
Overall, we’re talking about quite an impressive accomplishment from the BBC here and one that definitely helps distract from the limitations being placed on the live 4K coverage from the broadcaster.
Moving back to the 4K broadcasts, subscribers who want them and managed to secure their spot for viewing them will have to also own a 4K UHD TV (obviously enough) and have a broadband connection of at least a steady 40Mbps running to that TV.