FIFA is providing all the matches from World Cup 2018 to broadcasters in 4K UHD, and in Germany and America they'll be broadcasting some of them at that resolution (although in the States it may specifically involve buying a HiSense telly like the one pictured above and using its special World Cup app).
In the UK, neither the BBC nor ITV is geared up to broadcast 4K over the airwaves, but the Beeb is now ready to do so – with HDR, to boot – via iPlayer and the new-fangled 'internet' that we hear so much about these days.
- Best TV 2018 - all the best 4K UHD TVs in one place
- The best TV under £1000 - affordable but excellent TVs
- The best TV under £500 - no OLED to be found here
In typical fashion, the BBC didn't really bother to tell anyone in advance, but this weekend it live streamed a Rugby League match between York City Knights and Catalans Dragons in 4K.
No disrespect to followers of rugby league, but this may have been chosen because it was unlikely to cause a frenzy of interest, resulting in the BBC's servers crashing under the weight of 20 million simultaneous 4K downloads.
However, if you happened to be a fan of the 13-man, oval-ball game, and were looking at the iPlayer Beta app when the game was, on, you could stream the whole thing in UHD on a compatible 4K TV. In fact, not just 4K but 4K with HDR for improved colour and contrast performance. This was via the HLG format, which was also used on select Beta streams of Blue Planet 2.
BBC R&D head Phil Layton, subsequently blogged about the trial, and what he had to say strongly suggests that you'll be needing to move to Germany if you want to view Russia 2018 in 4K.
“Making the move from on-demand UHD programmes to live UHD footage presents significant engineering challenges," he wrote. That's because 4K streaming is "much more demanding for live programmes than for on-demand. That means we need to use higher distribution bitrates, and that people’s TVs will need to work harder to show the best picture."
However, he added that live UHD "could" be the next step in the BBC's online journey, concluding, "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.”
At the moment ITV doesn't even broadcast online in HD, and no other UK broadcaster has rights to the live World Cup games, so the BBC is the only game in town when it comes to potentially showing when football action interrupts the running battles between tattooed men in tracksuits, over in Russia this summer.
The World Cup kicks off, in every sense, on June 14.