BBC to stream FA Cup matches in 4K HDR

4K footie - back of the net!

by Andy Bassett Apr 3, 2019 at 1:32 PM

  • Great news if you’re an AV enthusiast and a sports fan, the BBC is planning to broadcast upcoming FA Cup matches in 4K HDR on their iPlayer service.
    After 4K trials at Wimbledon and the World Cup last year, the BBC’s plans for UHD broadcasting have now moved to the current FA Cup competition. BBC Sport will stream the upcoming Manchester City versus Brighton match on 6th April in 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range) with similar plans to then stream the final on 18th May. Both matches will be played at Wembley Stadium.

    Viewers will need to be watching on a 4K compatible TV and access to the stream will be via the Red Button or by using an iPlayer app on your TV. It has been recommended that a wired internet connection of at least 40Mbps is available for the best quality experience of 3840 x 2160 pixels at 50 frames per second. In anticipation of the high demand for data, the number of ultra HD streams will be capped at ‘tens of thousands.’ For those on lower bandwidth connections or with less reliable wireless connections, a lower resolution of 2560 pixels horizontally will be available.

    The BBC’s previous UHD broadcasts involved a separate production process in addition to the standard HD broadcast. This time though, the main production will be in UHD and the HD and SD feeds will be taken from that to streamline the whole process.

    Referring to the likes of David Attenborough’s ‘Dynasties’ series, Dan Taylor-Watt, head of BBC iPlayer, said: “Our Ultra HD and HDR programmes have been streamed millions of times on BBC iPlayer and it’s one of the only streaming services to offer them live in such high quality. It’s an excellent example of how we’re reinventing BBC iPlayer, making it an even better place for watching live events.”

    The BBC will be using the Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) format of HDR, which is the format currently used by most broadcasters.

    Head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC R&D, Phil Layton, said, “As Ultra HD becomes increasingly popular, the BBC is making sure nobody is left behind. Our research has already provided a highly effective way for free-to-air broadcasters to put HDR into their Ultra HD programmes, and we’re working on a range of projects to make Ultra HD even better for audiences and the industry.

    However, it should be noted that the previous trials by the BBC highlighted issues with latency of between 30 and 90 seconds due to the additional data that 4K requires to be transmitted, so the event was not technically ‘live’. This latency was with a cap of around 60,000 available UHD streams, which was rarely exceeded. As the number of 4K viewers increases, so too will the amount of data that needs to be transmitted increase. BBC sources estimated that if the 4K streaming audience of last year’s England versus Croatia World Cup game had matched the terrestrial viewing number of 26.6 million, the amount of data the corporation would have needed to stream would have hit around 1 petabyte every second.

    Clearly, the existing network capabilities, both corporate and domestic, are a limiting factor that will need to be addressed before the live 4K HDR streaming of sports, concerts or Royal Weddings becomes regular viewing for all.

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