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Will the 2018 World Cup in Russia be broadcast in 4K?

Thursday, April 26th 2018 by Steve McCaskill

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is less than 50 days away, promising a feast of football for fans around the world. If you’re not able to get to the tournament yourself, then there’s nothing better than taking a few weeks off work and watching as many as three matches a day on your TV.

The 2010 World Cup was arguably the moment that HD TV became mainstream with all matches broadcast live on the BBC and ITV on Sky and Freesat. But in the intervening eight years, picture technology has advanced even further.

Most new televisions sold now support 4K, or Ultra High Definition (UHD), resolutions while Netflix, Amazon, BT Sport, and Sky offer UHD content – including live Premier League football matches. However, will the World Cup be shown in 4K?

World Cup in 4K

The short answer is, it’s unlikely. All matches at the tournament will be produced in 4K and made available to international broadcast partners, including the BBC and ITV. However, neither has a UHD channel on a conventional TV platform to show these games on and neither have they confirmed any plans to do so.

Of the two, the BBC is the most likely. It has held several UHD trials in the past, including at the 2014 World Cup and Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and earlier this month it streamed a full match from the Rugby League Challenge Cup between York City Knights and Catalans Dragons on BBC iPlayer beta – the first time the corporation has broadcast a live match in 4K and in HDR.

Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC R&D, explained that the process of transmitting a live event in UHD was very different to an on-demand programme and gave no indication as to whether the World Cup would be the next big event to be showcased.

“We’re always looking to provide our audiences with the best possible viewing experience, and live UHD could be the next step in that journey,” he said. “We’re now looking at the results from this latest experiment to help us build our understanding for how we might be able to provide live events in UHD in the future.”

iPlayer most likely home for 4K content

The BBC has confirmed to Cable.co.uk that there are no plans in place, but we think it’s still possible there might be some content, whether it’s full live matches or highlights, available. Both Sky Q and the Virgin TV V6 Box both support 4K but we would expect any content to be distributed via BBC iPlayer or the BBC Sport app rather than on television.

As for ITV, it seems even less likely. It has no UHD channel in place and has taken its time in even making HD content available on its ITV Hub online catch-up platform.

We’ve reached out to ITV for further information, but it appears at this stage, you’ll need to be abroad to certain of seeing the tournament in 4K. In Germany for example, Sky Deutschland has secured a deal with German state broadcasters to show 25 matches in UHD.

The tournament itself kicks off on 7 June and BBC and ITV will share all 64 matches between them. The BBC will show England’s first two matches against Tunisia and Panama, while ITV will broadcast the clash with Belgium and any potential second round match. The Beeb gets first picks on the quarter-finals and both channels will show the final live, as has been done in the past.

All will be in HD on Freeview, Freesat, Sky, BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Virgin Media.

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