BBC iPlayer will show the World Cup in 4K HDR, but there's a Dolby Atmos catch

FIFA World Cup trophy on the pitch
(Image credit: Getty Images / Stefan Matzke - sampics)

The big kick-off is upon us and there’s great news for anyone who has shelled out for one of the best 4K TVs ahead of the World Cup.

The BBC has confirmed that it will be broadcasting all 33 of the Qatar 2022 matches it has the rights to show in both 4K and HDR.

As with the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the broadcaster’s 4K coverage will be limited to its iPlayer streaming service, with live broadcasts on its BBC1, BBC2 and BBC Three restricted to 1080p resolution.

The iPlayer streams will be utilising the HLG (Hybrid-Log Gamma) format for HDR. This means you’ll need HLG support on your TV to watch matches with vibrant High dynamic range colour – a feature that appears on nearly all 4K TVs since 2018.

"Fans can watch the vast majority of the BBC’s games live in superb Ultra High Definition and High Dynamic Range to enjoy the best picture quality possible – all they’ll need is a compatible UHD TV and a high-speed internet connection," a BBC press release confirming the news stated.

The one downside to the BBC’s announcement is that while FIFA will be producing live match footage with Dolby Atmos and MPEG-H 3D audio, the BBC won’t be carrying either of the object-based sound formats in its streams, with the iPlayer streams restricted to just stereo audio. Some of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars will upmix from stereo to recreate a bigger sound, but it's not the same as getting a real Dolby Atmos mix, sadly.

The BBC’s announcement comes after Italy’s RAI, Fox Sports in the US and JioCinema  in India all confirmed they too would be showing World Cup matches in 4K – follow our guide on how to watch World Cup 2022 wherever you are here

FIFA World Cup sign in Qatar

(Image credit: Getty Images / GIUSEPPE CACACE)

Analysis: 4K HDR streams are sign of the future, but are the catches too much?

Big sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup are often the place where we see broadcasters begin to adopt new advancements – the wide introduction globally of HD broadcasts during the 2006 World Cup in Germany being a prime example. 

While no massive surprise – iPlayer live streams are very rarely offered in anything but stereo – it still comes as a bit of a disappointment that the BBC hasn’t gone a step further with its streaming coverage of Qatar 2022 and incorporated the 3D audio that FIFA is set to make available.

UK viewers will at least be able to watch Neymar’s flick and tricks in Doha in the finer detail that 4K and HDR allows, but there’s a pay-off for that extra fidelity that some footy fans won’t be able to live with.

If the previous World Cup is anything to go by, opting to watch a match in 4K via iPlayer streaming will likely mean there’s a delay of at least 30 seconds over watching via traditional linear TV – which could spoil the moment when your noisy neighbours are celebrating those vital goals going in before you’ve even seen the ball hit the back of the net.

Looking for a big screen 4K HDR TV before the big kick-off – check out the best early Black Friday TV deals here.

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist. The author of Steve Jobs: A Biographic Portrait, Kevin is a regular feature writer for a number of tech sites and the former Technology Editor for the Daily Mirror. He has also served as editor of and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards. Alongside reviewing the latest AV gear, smartphones and computers, Kevin also specialises in music tech and can often be found putting the latest DAWs, MIDI controllers and guitar modellers through their paces. Born within the sound of Bow Bells, Kevin is also a lifelong West Ham fan for his troubles.