Watching the World Cup...in HD
The good news for football fans is that just about everyone in the UK will be able to watch the World Cup 2010 in HD. But before we get started on the whens, hows and whyfors, there is the small matter of making sure you've got the kit to watch high definition programming in the first place.
Things you will need
Whether Full HD, HD Ready, 720p, 1080p, 1080i or whatever else it calls itself, if you do not have an HDTV or computer screen of any sort, then you will not be watching the World Cup or anything else for that matter in HD.
Things you will probably need
Set top box
Not a must have because there are plenty of TVs out there with either a Freeview HD or Freesat decoder built-in but, if that does not describe your set of choice, then you will need an HD capable set top box. That's either going to be a Virgin Media V+HD or V HD box, a Sky HD box, one of these kinds of things for Freesat and one of these for Freeview HD. If you've got an HDTV and no HD decoder to go with it, then you're not watching HD.
It is possible to watch HD programming without HDMI cables. If your Freeview HD or Freesat decoders are built into your set, then you won't necessarily need any HDMI cables. Likewise, it is also possible to carry HD signals over other cables like component and VGA, but with many of the set top boxes, such as the Sky HD box, you need HDMI in order for the HD to work. So, if you're using a set top box, as a rule of thumb, just make sure you're using an HDMI cable to connect it to your TV.
Things you will not need
Subscription TV service
As both carry the relevant channels, Sky and Virgin Media are showing all World Cup 2010 matches in HD, but there are plenty of free ways to watch as well.
UK TV channels for World Cup 2010
The BBC and ITV are the broadcasters who between them hold the rights to the World Cup 2010 in the UK. They're carving up the matches pretty much 50/50 with the BBC getting one of the England games, ITV getting two and both channels airing the final. Although nothing has been set in stone, it's overwhelmingly expected that all the games will be shown in HD on either BBC HD and ITV1 HD. So, now all there is to know is how to make sure you can receive them.
It's not been around for long but Freeview HD is the easiest way to watch the World Cup in high definition. That said, very few people have a Freeview HD decoder at the moment, so it'll require spending some cash. If you're in the market for a new TV set anyway, then you'll find plenty out there with Freeview HD built in. If you're quite happy with the set you already have then, the next, and far cheaper, option is to buy a Freeview HD set top box instead. Hook it up to your TV with an HDMI cable and, hey presto, World Cup 2010 in HD.
Again, it's a fairly minimal cost set up with Freesat. You'll need to have a satellite dish installed on your roof already or be prepared for someone to come and do it for you but it's not a particularly expensive job. You'll then need a TV with a Freesat tuner built in or a Freesat HD set top box bought separately. Then you're all set to receive both BBC HD and ITV1 HD and you can watch the footy, and all the other HD programming, in peace.
If you already happen to have the Sky HD package, then you're in luck. No need to spend a pretty penny more. You'll already be receiving both BBC HD and ITV1 HD and ready to enjoy the show.
If you just have a simple Sky+ box, then you'll need to upgrade to the Sky+HD box and sign up for the Sky HD bundle, which will add around another £10 to your monthly bill. If you're not with Sky but you've always rather fancied the idea, then by all means, splash the cash. It still offers the most HD content of all UK providers. It's still also the most expensive.
If you have a V+HD, with a hard drive and recording functionality, or a V HD box, without, you can view both BBC HD and ITV1 HD already. The former of these set-top-boxes comes at a premium (£5 per month on most packages, free for XL subscribers), while the latter's free on a monthly subscription, and a one-off set-up fee applies for both. As well as the World Cup, other high-def channels and HD video-on-demand content is available.
On your laptop
Don't forget, of course, that most computer screens these days can stream video in HD and that BBC's iPlayer does support the same standard. No one knows for certain whether Auntie will be streaming World Cup 2010 games live on their catch up service but there's an excellent chance they will.
Sadly, so far, there's no USB Freeview HD tuners available for laptops but keep your eyes on the look out in case one turns up before 11th June. Then you'll be able to watch the lot in full detail whether ITV or BBC choose to stream it or not.
There are a handful of TVs and players that will actually upscale standard definition footage into a made up version in HD. It's probably going to look better than SD, if that's all you can get and considering that a lot of HD broadcasts are just upscaled from being recorded by SD cameras in the first place, then you could argue that it's just the same anyway.
Down the pub
Of course, if it's all too much for you to be bothered to sort out, or you just fancy a little more atmosphere, then you can go and watch the football down a good pub in HD. A place to start is Sportspubs.co.uk which will give you a list of places in your area showing each game. Just remember to give them a call to check that they're doing so in HD.
If you enjoyed this article, then head over to our World Cup Week homepage where you'll find a collection of features getting ready for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.