BBC to Stream Wimbledon 2018 Tennis Tournament in 4K/HDR

LONDON — During the upcoming Wimbledon 2018 Championships — taking place from July 2–15 at the All England Club in Wimbledon, London — the BBC plans to stream select tennis matches in 4K resolution picture quality with high dynamic range (HDR) color. The live and on-demand 4K/HDR streams will be accessible to most U.K. viewers watching the matches via the BBC’s iPlayer streaming service.

When 4K, with four times the pixel count of 1080/60p video, is combined with HDR color space — where millions more colors can be displayed — the results are a brighter, sharper image. Viewers can better discern whether a shot was in or out or recognize famous people in the crowd. And HDR-capable displays handle contrast better, revealing more detail in late-day shadows, while preventing exposure problems in sunlit areas.

As was the case with its recent World Cup Games technology trial, the BBC intends to limit the 4K/HDR service — to roughly the first tens of thousands of people who access the streams — to better manage the bigger bandwidth demands.

“The World Cup streams have suffered a few technical teething problems — stuttering and buffering with some devices,” said John Archer, a TV reviewer for Forbes and Techradar. “[There have also been] a few issues with adapting effectively to broadband speeds that are close to the BBC’ 40 Mbps and 20 Mbps streaming quality ‘tiers.’ When the streams have worked well, though, the results have been spectacular.”

According to a spokesman for the BBC, “The trial has given us valuable feedback allowing us to improve our systems.” And reportedly, few, if any, people found themselves blocked from accessing the World Cup games in 4K.

[Read here about how the BBC used IBM Watson for real-time data analytics of match highlights during last year’s Wimbledon]

TV Reviewer Archer added, “Detail and sharpness have been hugely superior to the HD broadcast streams, making the action feel more immediate and much less tiring to watch. The use of HDR has been quite subtle by comparison but has still undoubtedly enhanced the sense of 'being there' that's so important when you're watching sport.”

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Claudia Kienzle