The World Cup will be in 4K on the BBC with one pretty big catch
If watching the World Cup in HD wasn’t enough for you, then good news: the BBC will be broadcasting every one of its 29 World Cup fixtures in glorious 4K with HDR on supported TV sets. That’s a super-sharp resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 – ideal for dissecting every moment of England’s inevitable implosion in the last 16.
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Well, kind of ideal – there’s a catch. The problem is that the BBC doesn’t have enough bandwidth to air the games in 4K via terrestrial broadcast to your Freeview box, or similar. And while it could theoretically distribute the games over Virgin or Sky, its strict platform neutrality rules prevent such a strategy.
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That leaves iPlayer, and the BBC’s video-on-demand platform isn’t set up for millions of people streaming 4K content at the same time. As a result, matches will be available in 4K from the iPlayer home screen as soon as the pre-match build-up begins, but will vanish once the stream reaches capacity. In other words, get in early or you’ll be stuck with regular old 1080p. Boo.
So how many people will be allowed to share the 4K bounty? The BBC hasn’t given an exact number, only saying it’s in the tens of thousands. That may be enough – not everyone will even be aware it’s an option, and others prefer the convenience of their Freeview box – but then again, it may not be: especially when England are playing. According to official figures, 20.2 million Brits tuned into ITV to watch bits of England’s 2-1 defeat to Uruguay at the 2014 tournament.
Not only will you have to be fast to catch the stream, your connection and TV will also have to be up to snuff. There’s a full list of supported TVs here, and the BBC says that to get the full 3,840 x 2,160 footage, you’ll need a connection capable of streaming at 40Mbps. If you have 20Mbps, you’ll be treated to a 2,560-pixel stream instead. All resolutions will play at 50 frames per second.
They think it’s all over…
But wait, there’s more! If you’re left out of the cold on the 4K front, there is another innovative way to watch the World Cup on the BBC: virtual reality. No, this won’t let you see through the eyes of Harry Kane, rather users will be transported to a virtual private box, without the need to make small talk with other football fans.
Sat on a virtual sofa, you’ll be able to watch the match on a virtual giant screen, with the option to check out live stats popping up from a virtual coffee table. If that sounds a bit ‘prawn sandwiches’ to you, the BBC says you’ll be able to take a virtual seat behind the goals for a more traditional matchday experience. You’ll need a far more bandwidth-friendly 10Mbps connection for the VR experience, and the VR app will be available for iOS, Android, Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR.
The World Cup kicks off in Russia on 14 June. England play Tunisia on 18 June, Panama on 24 June and Belgium on 28 June – with the first two on BBC, with the latter on ITV.