BBC hails iPlayer 4K HDR live stream trials “a hit”

The BBC has hailed its 4K HDR World Cup and Wimbledon iPlayer trials as “a hit with audiences”, giving us all hope that we’ll be able to live stream more content in the highest possible quality in the very near future.

The 2018 summer of sport was memorable for all the right reasons, and the fact that so many matches were available to watch in 4K HDR was, for many of us, the cherry on top.

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“In summer, BBC iPlayer ran two major trials, streaming both the World Cup and Wimbledon in Ultra-High Definition and High Dynamic Range for the first time,” the BBC wrote in a blog post today.

“Fans were able to stream every BBC One match from the summer’s FIFA World Cup and every centre court match from Wimbledon, enabling them to watch the summer of sport in unprecedented quality.

“And they proved a hit with audiences, receiving over 1.6 million requests across the trials, with England’s quarter final match against Sweden the most popular UHD programme.”

And don’t worry non-sports fans, there’ll be plenty for you too.

The blog post continues: “In addition to live UHD, BBC One’s landmark David Attenborough-narrated natural history series Dynasties was made also available to watch on-demand in UHD and HDR, with each episode available to watch after broadcast.”

After the trials came to an end, the Beeb posted detailed descriptions of the top five things it learned from the experience. You can read about them in depth here, but arguably the biggest issue viewers reported is already being solved.

The iPlayer streams were often 30 seconds or more behind the TV broadcast, and some online viewers said key moments were regularly ruined, for instance when they checked social media or heard their neighbours cheering before they’d actually seen anything major happen on-screen.

“Latency occurs because of the way video is distributed over the internet,” the BBC explained last year. “Portions of video and audio data are typically delivered over the internet in separate files. If these files − known as media segments − get too short, processing them becomes very inefficient. If the files are long, you get higher latency, as each segment needs to be generated in full before it can be passed on to the next step in the chain.

“Building upon work by standards organisations and others in the industry, the low latency techniques BBC R&D has been experimenting with work by either reducing the duration of each segment, or by creating the segments progressively as a series of chunks that can be passed through the chain immediately as they become available.

“The result means that, in the future, live streaming viewers watching over the internet will be able to see the action at the same time as they would see it if they were watching on TV.”

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Unfortunately, it could be a long while before viewers actually get to experience the benefits of the breakthrough.

Did you tune into last year’s 4K HDR trials? Let us know what you thought on Twitter @TrustedReviews.

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