BBC Adds More 4K (UHD) Content, Including New Series ‘Vigil’

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Some good news for those hoping for more Ultra HD (4K) content on the BBC, as the broadcaster is adding two new programmes to its 4K “experiment” this week: the hit new show Vigil, and a 9/11 documentary.

The BBC has been running “trials” of streaming 4K content on iPlayer since 2016, when Planet Earth was streamed in UHD and HDR on supported devices.

4K (also known as Ultra HD) gives you four times the details over Full HD (1080p), with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, compared to 1,920 x 1,080 on Full HD. 

HDR (“High Dynamic Range”) helps improve the contrast rates, making the picture more accurate. It also provides a larger colour palette and more colour shades.

4k ultra hd tv screen 700

This year, several programmes were added to the list of 4K content available on iPlayer, including the New Year’s special of Doctor Who, and two major sports events were broadcast live in 4K – UEFA Euro 2020 and Wimbledon 2021.

This week, the BBC announced two new programmes that can now be watched in 4K / HDR:


The new thrilling submarine drama from the makers of Line of Duty and Bodyguard. 

It stars Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie, Shaun Evans, Martin Compston and Paterson Joseph.

The first episode aired on BBC One, on August 29, with the first – and second – episodes also available to stream on-demand on BBC iPlayer.

The first two episodes are therefore available in 4K, with future episodes (there will be six in total) added on-demand every Sunday, also in 4K/UHD, shortly after their live airing on BBC One.

9/11: Inside the President’s War Room

As America and its allies now withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban resume control, this documentary travels back to that momentous day to hear first-hand testimonies from senior staff of the Bush administration to show how it all began.

The 1 hour and 29 minutes documentary tells the definitive story of the Bush administration through 12 hours of that momentous day.

It features first-hand testimony from President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other senior staff who had their hands on the levers of power.

The film is now available in 4K / UHD on BBC iPlayer, on supported devices.

How Can I Watch Vigil In 4K?

If you want to watch Vigil and the 9/11 documentary in 4K, you first need a TV that supports 4K.

For HDR, you also need a TV that supports the HLG format, which is the one the BBC uses (and isn’t as popular as some of the other HDR formats).

Then you need a streaming device that supports 4K (and optionally HLG HDR) and has the BBC iPlayer app. This can either be your Smart TV itself, or a dedicated device like the Amazon Fire TV Cube.

Amazon Fire TV Cube

For now, the BBC’s 4K trial is NOT supported on mobile phones and computer browsers. Sky Q UHD is also NOT supported at the moment, as well as some popular streaming devices like the Amazon Fire TV 4K Stick.

You can find the full list of supported devices here.

Furthermore, for 4K streaming you need a fast broadband connection – the BBC recommends a connection speed of 24MBit/s for the full 4K experience (3840 pixels), or 12MBit/s for a lower (2560 pixels) resolution. 

Finally, you need to pick the right settings on your BBC iPlayer app, where you must set the video quality to “Best”:

  • Go to BBC iPlayer’s “Settings”
  • Select “Video Quality”
  • Choose “Best Quality”

Finally, to make sure you’re watching the programme in UHD, look for the UHD icon:

Vigil UHD on BBC iPlayer

To learn more about 4K/UHD and the BBC, see our full guide.

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