This summer will see the 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup. The action will take place in Russia, with 32 teams looking to lift the World Cup trophy in July.
Like any other major sporting event, the World Cup is bursting at the seams with technical innovation with 4K broadcasts, immersive audio and plenty of ways to keep abreast of the action through mobile and social media.
So if you’re looking to catch the action on your 4K TV, follow via the radio or watch online, read on for what you can expect from Russia 2018.
You’ll have a choice between the BBC and ITV – or like us, you can irritate your family by constantly switching between the two to see if there’s a difference in picture quality. Matches played at the same time as the main broadcast fixture can be accessed through the Red Button on the BBC; for ITV they’ll be on ITV 4.
If the BBC adopts its Brazil 2014 template for Russia, there will be a range of programmes that delve into the sights and sound of the host country along with the history of the World Cup to supplement the on-pitch action.
Also expect a catch-up and highlights package of the previous day’s action on BBC Two, with full match replays of the day’s best match after midnight on the same channel. Matches will be available in SD and HD with 4K a possibility – probably on catch-up only via iPlayer.
“You’ll have a choice between the BBC and ITV – or like us, you can irritate your family by constantly switching between the two”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off on Thursday 14th June, at 4pm BST, with Russia hosting Saudi Arabia in Moscow. ITV will show that match as well as the opening ceremony.
Once the group games are out of the way, the Round of 16 starts on Saturday 30th, 3pm. ITV has first pick for the knockout stages, which will see the winner of Group C take on the runner-up from Group D.
The Quarter-Finals start on Friday 6th July, with both matches that day on the BBC and coverage starting at 3pm. The next day, ITV takes its turn and focuses on the remaining matches.
Then comes squeaky bum time as the Semi-Finals begin on Tuesday 10th July, 7pm on ITV. The day after will see the other contest on the BBC at 7pm.
The Third-place play-off is on Saturday 14th. Then comes the moment a month of football has been building up to, as two teams bid for glory in the Final on Sunday 15th July, 4pm.
Both BBC and ITV will carry the final.
If you’re interested in England’s travails, the men’s national team will begin their campaign in anger against Tunisia. That’s on the BBC at 7pm, Monday 18th June.
The next match, against Panama, is six days later – again on the BBC at 1pm – with what’s likely to be the Group G decider against Belgium on 28th June at 7pm on ITV.
This will be the first true 4K Ultra HD World Cup. Brazil 2014 had several matches produced in 4K, but 2018 will see FIFA team up with Sony to deliver all 64 matches in native 4K HDR.
Each stadium will have 37 cameras shooting footage, eight of which will be outputting in UHD/HDR.
The UHD broadcast will also feature immersive audio. FIFA hasn’t yet confirmed whether this will be Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but we assume it will be the former; Dolby’s object-based surround audio has traditionally been the format of choice for broadcasters, with both BT and Sky opting for Atmos integration. The technology was also used recently for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
One significant stumbling block to viewing the event in 4K is that neither the BBC nor ITV has a 4K channel. However, the BBC has made headway in developing its 4K pipeline, successfully trialling Blue Planet II in the format this past December.
The David Attenborough series was broadcast via the iPlayer in Hybrid Log Gamma HDR, a format developed by the BBC and Japanese state broadcaster NHK. If the BBC proceeds with 4K, it’s likely iPlayer will be the avenue through which it will do so.
And it’s not only 4K. NHK has made a firm commitment to developing 8K TV – or Super Hi-Vision, as it’s also called. It was announced in 2015 that NHK and FIFA had plans to produce matches in 8K for this World Cup.
Things have since gone rather quiet on that front, but it’s anticipated that NHK will use the World Cup as another proving ground for its 8K pipeline. Both FIFA and NHK have prior form in this respect, as the 2015 Women’s World Cup had several games produced in 8K.
“The BBC Sport app will push alerts (if you want it to, of course) for goals, half- and full-time results as well as for starting lineups”
Your best options for watching the event online will likely come down to BBC’s iPlayer or the ITV Hub.
There’s a chance BBC’s online content could be in 4K if you’re watching on the iPlayer, TV compatibility and bandwidth speeds notwithstanding.
ITV hasn’t yet announced if it will make a move into 4K content either online or on TV before the World Cup – and, considering how long it took the BBC to firm up its distribution network, it would seem unlikely in such a short space of time.
When it comes to catching up on live sports, iPlayer tends to carry content for at least seven days after its initial transmission, and we can’t imagine the ITV Hub straying far from that, although that’s dependent on broadcast rights.
The iPlayer is advertisement free (but don’t forget to pay your licence fee), and while the free version of ITV’s Hub player carries ads, for £4 you can sign up to ITV Hub+, available across desktop, iOS and connected TVs. The fee removes ads and lets users download shows through the iOS app (iOS 10 and above). As with Now TV, there’s no contract and you can leave whenever you want.
The official TV sponsor of the World Cup, Hisense, has announced a special app that will stream matches in 4K. However, this is a US-only promotion, and there’s been no announcement of a similar app for UK Hisense owners.
There’s FIFATV on YouTube. It has highlights packages, along with interviews, previews and full nostalgic replays of classic matches from previous World Cups.
And, if that doesn’t float your boat, Copa90 will offer engagement on the World Cup from a supporter’s perspective, with interviews and short productions on fan culture.
On mobile, you can expect content on BBC’s iPlayer, ITV’s Hub player and YouTube to mirror what we’ve already covered, as well as a range of activities across social media.
The BBC Sport app will push alerts (if you want it to, of course) for goals, half- and full-time results as well as for starting lineups.
FIFA will have its own official app where you can keep track of scores and discover live blogs, match highlights, photos and watch exclusive videos.
And for those hoping to keep track of the ins-and-outs of the tournament through podcasts, there will be plenty to sate your interest.
The likes of Football Weekly, The Football Ramble and The Totally Football Show will feature a regular dose of round-ups, previews and reviews, dissecting the tournament’s most notable topics and trends.
On the radio side, there are two options to choose from for your listening pleasure. On the one side you have talkSPORT, whose coverage includes exclusive interviews and live commentary of every match. However, its coverage will supplemented by ads.
On the other side you have BBC’s ad-free coverage on Radio 5Live, which will cover the matches, and offers in-depth commentary, special reports and news bulletins.