BBC UHD iPlayer trial delivers 1.6m streams for Russian World Cup and Wimbledon

posted on Thursday, 19th July 2018 by Steve May

UHD  Broadcast 

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The BBC says that its 4K UHD World Cup and Wimbledon iPlayer trials received over 1.6m requests.
Describing the project as a success, Phil Layton, Head of Broadcast and Connected Systems, BBC R&D, said: “The trial is an important step forward, showing for the first time that Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) can be delivered live and free-to-air over the Internet. It’s part of the BBC’s mission to ensure that future audiences can enjoy the benefits of improved picture quality, and this trial follows on from our work ensuring viewers were not left behind by the move to HDTV, albeit with different technologies.”

He says the aim was to demonstrate live end-to-end Ultra HD, BT.2100 wide colour and the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) that the BBC and NHK have standardised. “This is essential to improving the visual experience irrespective of the viewer’s screen size. Finally, we wanted to do this free-to-air, streamed to BBC iPlayer, at a scale never seen before in the UK.”

The BBC used GPU accelerated software based HEVC encoders to combat the challenge of real-time delivery, concluding that to view full Ultra HD resolution a connection speed of 36Mbit/s was required. From a consumer viewpoint, we found image fidelity highly variable, ranging from excellent to sub-HD quality. Sporadic buffering and time delay issues also undermined the viewing proposition.

Typically, lesser World Cup games attracted around 20,000 4K requests, while England games generated around 35,000 4K streams. When these coincided with Wimbledon, the system was handling up to 60,000 4K streams simultaneously.

The Corporation has issued a ranking for its most popular coverage.

Rank Date Peak UHD streams 
1 Sat July 7: 60.3k Sweden v England QF / Day 6 Wimbledon
2 Tues  July 10: 48.1k France v Belgium QF / Day 8 Wimbledon
3 Sun  July 15: 44.3k France v Croatia Final / Men’s Singles Final
4 Fri   July 06: 41.6K Brazil v Belgium QF / Day 5 Wimbledon
5 Mon  July 2: 37.3K Belgium v Japan last 16 / Day 1 Wimbledon

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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