According to WorldAtlas.com, the most popular sport in the world is soccer—or, as it’s called everywhere but the US, football. Over half the world’s entire population—4 billion people—follow the sport. So, it’s no wonder that the World Cup live broadcast is among the most watched sporting events in the history of television.
This year, the World Cup is being held in Moscow, Russia, from June 14 to July 15. Fortunately for soccer fans who are also AV enthusiasts in the US and UK, there are several ways to watch the games in 4K/UHD resolution and high dynamic range (HDR). These formats have become more than experiments and trial runs over the last two years, bringing a new level of realism from more providers.
Of course, the first thing you need is a 4K/UHD display with the ability to reproduce HDR signals. In most cases, HDR is delivered in the HDR10 format, though DirecTV and the BBC are using HLG. Fortunately, most modern HDR-capable TVs support both formats.
In the US, both satellite providers offer the World Cup in 4K/UHD and HDR. Dish subscribers need a Hopper 3 set-top box and any channel package that includes Fox and FS1—which is most of them. Channel 540 is carrying 56 of the 64 games in 4K HDR using the HDR10 format. Unfortunately, Dish’s 4K Joey remote-client box do not support the HDR feed in other rooms of the home. Click here for more info and the schedule of games.
DirecTV is offering all 64 World Cup matches in 4K HDR using the HLG format. Subscribers need a Genie (HR54) or Genie 2 (HS17) set-top receiver and the Select package or higher. The games are being carried on channels 105 and 106. Even better, DirecTV’s 4K Genie Mini supports the HDR feed in other rooms of the home. In addition, DirecTV’s 4K HDR coverage of the World Cup is also available in Latin America. Click here for more info on DirecTV’s 4K HDR offerings, including a schedule of World Cup games.
Turning to cable services, there are two offering 4K HDR coverage of the World Cup; both use the HDR10 format. If you are a Comcast cable subscriber, you can watch all 64 matches in 4K HDR on demand after a one-day delay. In this case, the coverage is in Spanish on the Telemundo channel. To view this content, you need an Xfinity XG1v4 cable box. Click here for more info.
A somewhat smaller cable company called Layer3 TV offers service in some areas of the US, including Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Any Layer3 set-top box can accommodate the 4K HDR feed from FS1 (channel 119) or Fox (channel 120). Layer3 has been offering 4K content for about a year, but this is the first time it has included HDR. Click here for more.
An even smaller cable company, Optimum, offers some of the World Cup matches in 4K HDR using HDR10 from its Altice One set-top box. The Optimum service is available only in the New York tri-state area.
Hisense is a major sponsor of the World Cup, so it makes sense that some of its smart TVs can stream the games in 4K HDR using HDR10, though this is available only in the US. The compatible models include the H8E, H6E, Laser TV (a UST-projection system), H9D, and H9E Plus. You also need a cable or satellite subscription that includes Fox and FS1. In addition, Hisense recommends a downstream bandwidth of at least 20 Mbps.
If you have one of these models, you need to install the Fox Sports: 2018 FIFA World Cup Edition app. This will provide live 4K HDR coverage and the ability to select from five live camera angles and 32 replay angles. (The H9E Plus does not provide the 32 replay angles.) Also available from the app is a Fox series called Phenoms about the next generation of soccer players (theatrical trailer and full episodes a few hours after each one airs) as well as Road to Russia (World Cup preview footage, memorable moments from World Cup history, Phenoms short-form content). For more on the Hisense World Cup app, click here.
For those living in the UK, the BBC is offering 29 World Cup matches in 4K HDR via its iPlayer online-streaming app, which presumably can be installed in British 4K TVs. The stream will use the HLG HDR format and require a downstream bandwidth of 40 Mbps. According to this article on Forbes.com, not all devices are compatible; the article includes some advice about how to determine if your setup will work.
In addition, each game will be limited to “tens of thousands of people” according to the BBC website, and it’s first come, first served. The good news is that the stream will be sent at 50 frames per second rather than the normal 25 (this is Europe, not the US), which explains why such a high downstream bandwidth is required. Click here for more info.
Clearly, 4K and HDR are emerging out of the testing phase and becoming more mainstream. Of course, it has a long way to go before it’s ubiquitous, but the 2018 World Cup represents some real progress. If you’re a soccer fan, I hope you have the opportunity to check it out!