The BBC Will be Showing the World Cup in 4K (and VR) After All

By Tom Pritchard on at

Recently the BBC conducted two trials to test its streaming capabilities, live streaming the second half of the FA Cup Final and a rugby match between York City Knights and Catalans Dragons on BBC iPlayer Beta in 4K HDR. The downside was that the Beeb didn't tell anyone about the tests beforehand, so very few people actually saw it in action. Well I have good news, because the BBC has announced the next stage of its testing, and it involves streaming the 29 World Cup matches due to be broadcast on BBC One in 4K HDR. Oh, and tere's some VR coverage as well.

The matches will be streamed on regular BBC iPlayer (not the beta version), but it's taking measure to try and avoid too many people tuning in and overloading the system. Essentially that means there are only a limited number of spots available per match, and the BBC is encouraging people to "grab their spots early" to avoid having to watch the games in the rubbish-tier HD.

The exact number of spots hasn't been specified, but the BBC claims of tens of thousands of people will be able to watch. Grabbing a space is easy though. If you have a compatible TV (which supports 4K and Hybrid Log Gamma HDR) a link to the stream will be available on the iPlayer homepage. It'll pop up as soon as pre-match coverage begins, and will stay there until each spot is taken. You obviously need to make sure you have a high-speed internet connection too, at least 40 Mb/s for UHD or 20 Mb/s for QHD, otherwise the improved picture will come out rubbish.

The goal of this particular trial is less about making sure livestreaming 4K HDR video works, and more about gathering data to help the BBC prepare for a future where live streaming such high quality content is the norm.

The BBC will also be offering live coverage of 33 World Cup games in VR via the new ‘BBC Sport VR - FIFA™ World Cup Russia 2018’ app. The app will transport wearers into a virtual sofa inside the BBC Sport box, or behind one of the two goals, letting them watch the matches as if they were actually in Russia. The feed will also include live statistics that pop up on a virtual coffee table, plus when a match isn't on people can watch highlights and other on-demand content.

The app will be available on Android, iOS, Gear VR, Oculus Go, and PS VR. Unfortunately it definitely won't be available on HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. The BBC has also recommended that people have access to an internet connection of at least 10 Mb/s for the best experience.

So there you have it, you will be able to watch the World Cup in 4K after all, or VR if you're so inclined. You can find BBC Sport's World Cup Schedule right here.