BBC to show World Cup, Wimbledon in high definition

MUMBAI: UK pubcaster The BBC has announced that it will broadcast its 2006 World Cup coverage and major Wimbledon matches in high definition (HD) as part of its pioneering trial.

The BBC HD trial will kick off with the BBC's share of World Cup matches up to and including the 9 July 2006 final. World Cup 2006 will be the first major sporting event to be broadcast in HD in the UK. The BBC's summer of HD sport will continue with Wimbledon matches from Centre Court and Court One.

The BBC explains that HD is a new kind of television which delivers more detailed pictures and sharper shots of fast-moving action than conventional 'standard definition'. The HD format will be an extra stream alongside conventional analogue and digital broadcasts.

It will only be accessible to viewers who have all of the following: HD Ready televisions, HD set top boxes and HD services from satellite or cable providers. News about the World Cup and Wimbledon in HD follows finalisation of the technical and partnership arrangements for the trial.

The BBC's HD trial will last for about 12 months. It will enable the BBC to test technical delivery of HD and to understand how the audience values a BBC HD service. Any ongoing BBC HD service will be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.

BBC director of sport Roger Mosey said, "High definition works particularly well for sport. It gives fantastic picture quality, from the blades of grass that are being played on right to the back of the stands, and although only limited numbers of people will be able to see this trial we hope it will be a glimpse of the future."

BBC HD TV head Seetha Kumar said, "We believe that in the long term the BBC can help provide the benefits of HD to everyone, free to air, in the same way that we backed colour, stereo, widescreen and online in the past. With this trial, the BBC is taking the first crucial steps to support the development of HD broadcasting in the UK."

BBC HD will start broadcasting on 15 May with a test stream previewing forthcoming programmes. The first live HD programme will be the opening World Cup match Germany Vs Costa Rica on 9 June.

BBC commentary and studio coverage in HD will wrap up the HD feed from German host broadcasters HBS (Host Broadcaster Services). Standard definition digital and analogue BBC One coverage will also draw on high definition images, both for the World Cup and for Wimbledon where the BBC is the host broadcaster.

The BBC HD trial will run for about a year. It will feature BBC shows such as natural history series Planet Earth and Galapagos, drama documentary Hannibal and some BBC Proms concerts including the First and Last Nights, in HD quality.

The amount of new programming each day will vary, averaging between one and two hours. Some programmes will be simulcast with BBC One or, in a few instances, BBC Two.

Others will be time-shifted or offer another chance to view past highlights such as dramas Bleak House and Hotel Babylon in high definition for the first time.

The BBC will provide its HD trial stream on all technically capable platforms, including satellite and cable, once available, from commercial providers. It is not currently possible to provide HD transmissions on Freeview because of limited space on the airwaves. The BBC will run a simultaneous technical trial of HD on digital terrestrial television (Freeview). That trial will be confined to few hundred trial households in London, which will be chosen shortly.

Freeview could accommodate some high definition broadcasting after switchover between 2008 and 2012. Ofcom's Digital Dividend Review later this year is deciding how that spectrum should be used.

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