It won’t surprise you to learn that, as a TV reviewer for over 15 years, I’m a proper nerd about resolutions and dynamic range. The deflation when I discover that a movie I want to watch isn’t available in 4K HDR (preferably Dolby Vision) is often enough to persuade me to choose a different film altogether, much to the annoyance of my long-suffering wife.
I’m also a massive football fan (COYS!), and weekends of watching the Premier League on the telly have been elevated to new levels for me since Sky introduced its UHD HDR option. The extra pixels are great, of course, but it’s the enhanced contrast that makes the biggest difference, giving the image so much more punch, with the bright kits of the players and banners of the stadium popping from the screen. It adds to the realism and, therefore, the immersion, particularly when you’ve also got the crowd noise filling your room via Dolby Atmos.
You might think, then, that I’m chomping at the bit to watch the World Cup (which starts tomorrow!) in 4K HDR. I’m not.
The problem is the delivery method: in the UK, 4K HDR coverage of the World Cup is being provided by the BBC via its iPlayer app, and previous experience of iPlayer sporting coverage tells me there’ll be a delay.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not having a pop at the BBC. I’m hugely grateful to the Beeb for providing 4K HDR (and loads of other things besides), but it’s not possible to deliver it any way but streamed, and streams have delays.
Is a bit of a delay really a big deal? Most of the time, no, but just occasionally, yes. During last year’s Euros, for example, which took place during the summer as international football tournaments should, Harry Kane’s extra-time goal to take the lead against Denmark was spoiled for us when the cheers of various neighbours invaded our living room through the open windows.
“I guess we’ve scored”, I sheepishly muttered to the guests we’d invited over for the game, as we waited an excruciatingly long time (it was probably just under a minute but it felt like an eternity) to see the goal we all knew was coming.
Things will be a bit different for the World Cup, of course, largely because it’s winter here so the windows will very much be closed, but there are still notifications to contend with. Every time I watch a Premier League game on BT Sport – which I do via the app on an Apple TV – I get at least a couple of notifications for goals before I’ve seen them, and I imagine those sorts of notifications will be coming even thicker and faster during the World Cup.
I could try to ignore my phone, of course, or turn notifications off entirely, but I can’t reasonably expect everyone I’m with to do the same. Besides, even if we did all do that, there’d still be the nagging feeling that everyone else in the country would be experiencing a big sporting moment before us.
It’s almost certainly more than a little sad to be so concerned about seeing a goal a minute after everyone else, and even sadder to be so obsessed with picture quality when it’s the on-pitch action that actually matters. But that’s just the kind of loser I am, I guess.
Ultimately, I’ll be watching the World Cup via good ol’ terrestrial TV, foregoing 4K HDR in favour of seeing all of the goals as they actually go in. And, hopefully, by banging on about it here I’ve got it out of my system and my wife (did I mention she’s long-suffering?) will be spared any rants about upscaling and dynamic range.
- US-based soccer fans can also watch the World Cup in 4K HDR
- Here are the best TVs for watching the World Cup
- Hear the World Cup in style with one of the best soundbars