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Want to watch UEFA Euro 2024 in 4K? Good luck with that…

Lifting the trophy:
2 minute read
Lifting the trophy: Shutterstock

The UEFA Euro 2024 soccer tournament is well underway, but anyone looking for a 4K feed to watch the matches in UHD is going to be disappointed.

Football, soccer, call it what you will, it is uncontestedly the world’s biggest sport as it is also the most universal. Estimates are that somewhere between 3.5 and 4 billion people watch it and over quarter of a billion actively play it*. So, you would think that a major international tournament featuring many of the top players from the biggest clubs in the world would be broadcast in the leading audio visual format of its time. 

In short, you would expect Euro 2024 to be shown in 4K HDR. And that would not be an unreasonable expectation. After all, games from the tournament have been captured in UHD since 2016, domestic leagues across Europe are regularly available in the format, the FIFA World Cup has had a 4K feed since Russia 2018, and the Champion’s League final was first shown in 4K in 2015 — that’s nine whole years ago.

However, this time round the organising body UEFA decided that it was only going to produce the games in 1080p HDR. Anyone watching anything from the tournament hosted on any 4K services is only watching an uprezzed feed at best, a misbadged HD one at worst.

The retailers wanting to flog newer and bigger 4K TVs are going to have to wait till the Paris 2024 Olympics which will definitely be produced in the format, mainly due to pressure from Japan (though, as Tokyo 2020 proved, that doesn’t mean that every rights holder will carry the 4K feed).

So, is UEFA an outlier here? No. In the US, Amazon Prime’s NFL games are streamed in 1080p, and there is increasing thought amongst rights holders and broadcasters (and not just streamers) that the extra costs of producing in 4K would be better spent elsewhere; on snazzier graphics, cinematic style camera shots, more pre- and post-game content, and so on. Besides, the latest generation of TVs are perfectly capable of taking a 1080p HD HDR signal and making it look fabulous across their 4K screens. If that can be done at the consumer end, why bother producing in anything else?

The introduction of HDR was often held by organisations such as the EBU to be likely to have more of an impact on consumer viewing enjoyment than any increase in resolution. And in the same vein, arguably the next frontier that will improve picture quality and viewing experiences even further consists of brighter sets with glare-free coatings. 

But you still can’t quite escape the feeling that UEFA had an open goal in front of them with Euro 2024 and, instead of shooting, passed the ball back to the midfield and tried to impress us with some fancy footwork instead. This year’s Champions League Final was also busted down to 1080p HD HDR and it will be interesting to see what the fan feedback on all this is and what UEFA decides to do at next year’s final in Munich.

* Cricket is also the undisputed number 2, with a global audience of two billion people driven in the main by its immense popularity on the Indian subcontinent. After that the numbers get murky, with various claims for third position being made for basketball, tennis, and even by lumping together field hockey and ice hockey to form one sport. We even found one list that counted American football and rugby as the same thing. In a word, no.

Tags: Production