iPlayer to stream FA Cup games in UHD
April 3, 2019
By Colin Mann
BBC iPlayer will bring football fans the Manchester City v Brighton FA Cup semi-final (April 6th) and the final (May 18th) live in Ultra HD and HDR for the first time. Those watching on compatible Ultra HD TVs can watch the live stream on BBC iPlayer by pressing the Red Button during the BBC’s coverage, or directly through the BBC iPlayer app on their TV.
This is the BBC’s latest Ultra HD trial as it continues to pioneer next-generation streaming for UK audiences. BBC iPlayer is the only streaming service in the UK to offer people live Ultra HD and HDR programmes. Its previous trials have proved incredibly popular with audiences, including:
- Dynasties, one of the most popular programmes on BBC iPlayer last year, was streamed around 8 million times – almost 18 per cent of these requests (1.4 million) were in Ultra HD
- Last summer’s live sport trial saw 1.6 million live requests for the BBC’s Wimbledon and the FIFA World Cup coverage in Ultra HD
In light of the experimental nature of the FA Cup trial and the high bandwidth required, there will be a cap of tens of thousands of people watching live at a time, as there was during the World Cup. Audiences will need an Internet connection of at least 40Mbit per second for full 3840 pixel Ultra HD or 20Mbit per second for 2560 pixel Ultra HD. Wi-Fi performance can vary greatly, so a wired Internet connection to the TV may provide a more consistent Ultra HD experience, suggests the BBC. Footage will be played at 50 frames per second.
“Our Ultra HD and HDR programmes have been streamed millions of times on BBC iPlayer, making them some of the most popular Ultra HD programmes in the world, and BBC iPlayer is one of the only streaming services to offer them live in such high quality,” advised Dan Taylor-Watt, Head of BBC iPlayer. “It’s an excellent example of how we’re reinventing BBC iPlayer, making it an even better place for watching live events, and giving people the best programmes to enjoy in the best possible quality.”
“As Ultra HD becomes increasingly popular in the future, the BBC is making sure nobody is left behind,” added Phil Layton, Head of Broadcast & Connected Systems, BBC R&D. “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.”
As the UK Internet evolves, the BBC believes this will be the main way people watch Ultra HD programmes in the future. The aim of these trials and other projects at the BBC is to improve the quality of Ultra HD streaming, especially live streaming, to meet future demand. They also help the development and adoption of open technology across the industry, ensuring that Ultra HD TV will be available free-to-air to as many people as possible.
The BBC played a similar role ensuring viewers were not left behind by the move to HDTV over a decade ago. Its early, pioneering work helped bring forward the launch of HD on terrestrial TV by three years, delivering a total economic benefit to the UK of £77 million to £152 million. Current projects shaping the future of mainstream Ultra HD TV include:
- Ultra HD production: Until now, Ultra HD trials have been a separate, experimental production process. But for the FA Cup, the BBC’s Ultra HD coverage will be the main production from which the HD and SD options will be derived. Working closely with Arena Television, this will help establish the most efficient way of producing programmes in multiple formats.
- Live latency: All live-streamed programmes currently experience a delay compared to the broadcast version. BBC R&D has proved that it can eliminate this latency lag in a prototype it showcased recently. BBC R&D continues to refine its technology and is cooperating with the industry to bring this to audiences in future.
- Hybrid Log-Gamma: BBC R&D and Japanese broadcaster, NHK, co-invented a type of HDR called Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). It was developed for the specific and complex needs of broadcasters and, especially, live broadcasts. It is the best way to deliver the benefits of HDR in live Ultra HD programmes to the widest range of TV audiences. It recently became an industry standard and, following the BBC’s Ultra HD trials, is supported by hundreds of devices.