BT is testing a pixel-rich upgrade that Sky and Virgin can’t match

For the first time, BT successfully broadcast a live 8K sporting event to homes across the UK. BT has worked hard to develop its support for this pixel-rich format, which offers much higher fidelity than 4K Ultra HD. The telecommunications company already won the title of the first public broadcast of 8K sports in February 2020 as part of an experiment with Samsung.

However, this latest trial represents the first time viewers have been able to watch the show from their 8K TVs at home. The test was carried out at Saracens v Bristol Bears Gallagher Premiership rugby match on March 26. Unlike the test with Samsung in 2020, which saw fans watching on 8K TVs in the stadium itself, the Premiership Rugby match was shown in select homes.

Although common on store shelves, there isn’t much native 8K content available for 8K TVs. Instead, those who upgrade to these flagship TVs will stand the test of time when the next major quality upgrade rolls out to broadcasters and streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+. To make up for the lack of content, manufacturers like Samsung have equipped their flat screens with powerful chipsets featuring intelligent artificial intelligence to improve picture quality on the fly.

This upgrade ensures that 1080p High Definition (HD) or 4K Ultra HD (UHD) shows, movies, and sports take advantage of the extra pixels in the display, ensuring they look better on an 8K panel than on a standard 4K TV. .

But with BT’s latest successful trial, viewers may soon be able to tune in to live sporting events via their BT Sport subscription and watch in crystal-clear 8K picture quality. The latest test allowed BT to explore the production workflows needed to deliver its match coverage in 8K HDR, with commercials, studio presenters and other on-screen elements in the format.

Jamie Hindhaugh, COO of BT Sport, said: “BT Sport continues to lead the industry with innovations that provide our customers with the best sports viewing experience in the UK. Whether it’s last season’s launch of Matchday Experience features on our app or our recent 5G-enabled augmented reality viewing trials, we’re on a mission to bring our viewers into the heart of the sport.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with 8K broadcasts is the amount of bandwidth needed to get the picture into homes. Early tests revealed that a single 8K stream would require a minimum of 50 Mbps. The average home broadband speed in the UK is estimated between 50 and 70 Mbps. Even if you’re at the top of that estimate, you’ll still be using almost all of your bandwidth for the 8K stream – that means a single incoming WhatsApp video call, another household member checking something on Google, an update which starts downloading on your laptop, or a backup by your smartphone might stop the stuttering 8K stream.

With full fiber broadband connections rolling out across the UK, with peak speeds of over 1,000Mbps, streaming issues should be resolved in the coming years. Although the British government has quietly backed down plans to ensure that 100% of homes in the UK have guaranteed access to these next-generation broadband connections.

Sky Q and Sky Glass both support box sets, blockbusters and sports in 4K Ultra HD, with HDR support in some shows. Likewise, the latest kit from Virgin Media is also compatible with this evolutionary image quality. Disney+, Apple TV+, and Prime Video allow subscribers to stream up to 4K Ultra HD if their internet connection can handle it. Netflix charges subscribers an extra fee to access enhanced streaming quality, with 1080p high definition and 4K Ultra HD locked behind more expensive plans. NOW, formerly NOW TV, also charges extra for the privilege. None of these streaming services currently offer access to 8K broadcasts.

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