In case you haven’t noticed, the 2014 FIFA World Cup is here. And, no matter who you support, on thing is clear: there’s a lot of it. 64 matches over a month? You’re not going to be able to watch all of them – especially if, like England versus Italy this weekend, they start at 11pm and don’t finish until 1am.
Can’t stay up until the wee small hours on a weeknight? This is why they invented video on-demand. With the BBC and ITV sharing the rights for the tournament, we provide a quick VOD TV guide to World Cup catch-up.
Your options are pretty straightforward: BBC or ITV. What does each have to offer?
Photo: BBC/Andrew Hayes-Watkins/Matthew Burlem
BBC iPlayer is the best terrestrial VOD service on the market. What makes them really stand-out during the World Cup? They’re not ITV. But does the site offer the best World Cup experience?
Live streaming has become a standard feature on iPlayer and the football is no exception. There will be a total of 31 matches shown live on BBC television and online, with the website promising the typical high-quality playback, with all video scaling up to HD quality.
What’s especially impressive is that if you’ve missed the beginning of a match while it is live, you can choose to rewind it – and there are even Chapter Markers to highlight key moments, from goals to the start of the second half, to even the build-up and national anthems.
So far, no major problems have happened with BBC’s live stream, but the England vs Italy match was notably choppy last night, stuttering several times in the second half – a sign that even the Beeb’s usually reliable servers are under a lot of strain.
Full replays of all BBC matches are available on BBC iPlayer for one week after broadcast. (Search for “Match of the Day”.)
The BBC iPlayer’s biggest victory is also securing the rights to old World Cup matches. You can now stream England’s 1966 World Cup final against West Germany, along with four other archive games, although they will not be available throughout the tournament. (At the time of writing, they were set to be removed within a week.)
The BBC also runs a World Cup Catch-Up each day. Confusingly, this is also under the “Match of the Day” heading. The segments, though, are nicely put together, offering 10 minutes of goals, plus funny clips, numerical trivia and snippets of punditry. If you can’t spend 240 minutes a day watching three matches, this is a great way to keep in the loop. It’s not just the BBC-licenced stuff, either: they have highlights of every single game.
The BBC iPlayer interface is borderline perfect. The problem, though, is the way it integrates into the rest of the BBC website. Individual programmes have web pages that look great and contain automatic links to iPlayer, but there is no easy landing page on iPlayer to find all the World Cup content. Likewise, the BBC’s World Cup hub is www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/2014 – accurate, but hardly memorable. When visiting that page, the video packages are hidden towards the bottom of the page. For traditional TV shows, this kind of setup works. For a sporting tournament, where there are so many things happening, it doesn’t fit. For the Olympics, the BBC is usually excellent at providing a dedicated online channel. Here, they seem to have shot wide.
ITV sports coverage isn’t exactly loved by fans, but can their VOD platform win them any kudos?
20 matches from the group stages will be shown live on ITV and 34 games in total will be broadcast during the World Cup – all of them are available to watch online, albeit with adverts.
ITV’s live stream is usually of a high standard, although there have been problems with their stability. During the opening match of Brazil vs Croatia, no less, the site’s stream went down – just as Brazil were taking a penalty. They apologised via Twitter:
The following warning is now on ITV Player:
All ITV matches will be available as a full catch-up option – at the time of writing, there are five of them available through ITV Player, with no sign of an expiry date.
The ITV Player highlights are not as good as the BBC. There is no way to find them via the ITV Player. Rather, they are included as part of a written series of recaps – no frills are to be found here.
One nice feature is the addition of In-Game Clips, which are highlights from matches currently showing live. These, again, are only available through the website not the VOD player, but provide an easy alternative to scrabbling around for GIFs or Vines. The downside? You get a nine-second advert before each 10-second clip.
ITV have made the smart decision to include a World Cup landing page on both their main site and ITV Player: http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/world-cup and http://www.itv.com/world-cup. Both are easy to remember.
You may have trouble finding the match you want, though: in ITV Player, the games have been grouped together (understandably) as a series. Each match therefore is listed Episode 1, 2, 3, etc. Some have the teams displayed as a thumbnail, others do not, so you will have to know the time and date of broadcast of the game you’d like to see.
The main website, on the other hand, is superbly designed. The World Cup landing page is responsive and makes it easy to find In-Game Clips, Highlights and other content.
BBC iPlayer 1 – 0 ITV Player
BBC iPlayer 1 – 0 ITV Player
BBC iPlayer 1 – 1 ITV Player
BBC iPlayer 0 – 1 ITV Player
World Cup Catch-Up Winner
BBC iPlayer edges past ITV Player – only just, thanks to ITV’s easier-to-navigate website. But the Beeb’s better range of content is hard to top, not to mention their superior presenting team and lack of adverts. The score may be 3-2 on paper, but in real life, the BBC’s World Cup VOD service has exactly the same advantage over its commercial rival as its live coverage does: namely, it’s not ITV. Thanks to the BBC’s comprehensive highlights package, in fact, you could spend the next four weeks pretending ITV doesn’t exist at all.
Which channel are the World Cup 2014 games on?
Here’s which broadcaster has the rights to each Group Stage match:
9pm – Brazil v Croatia – ITV
5pm – Mexico v Cameroon – ITV
8pm – Spain v Netherlands – BBC
11pm – Chile v Australia – BBC
5pm – Columbia v Greece – BBC
8pm – Uruguay v Costa Rica – ITV
11pm – England v Italy – BBC
2am – Ivory Coast v Japan – ITV
5pm – Switzerland v Ecuador – ITV
8pm – France v Honduras – ITV
11pm – Argentina v Bosnia – BBC
5pm – Germany v Portugal – ITV
8pm – Iran v Nigeria – BBC
11pm – Ghana v USA BBC
8pm – Brazil v Mexico – BBC
5pm – Belgium v Algeria – ITV
11pm – Russia v South Korea – BBC
11pm – Cameroon v Croatia – ITV
5pm – Australia v Holland – ITV
8pm – Spain v Chile – BBC
5pm – Columbia v Ivory Coast – BBC
11pm – Japan v Greece – BBC
8pm – England v Uruguay – ITV
8pm – France v Switzerland – ITV
5pm – Italy v Costa Rica – BBC
11pm – Honduras v Ecuador – ITV
8pm – Germany v Ghana – BBC
5pm – Argentina v Iran – ITV
11pm Nigeria v Bosnia – BBC
5pm – Belgium v Russia – BBC
11pm – USA v Portugal – BBC
8pm – South Korea v Algeria – ITV
9pm – Cameroon v Brazil – ITV
9pm – Croatia v Mexico – ITV
5pm – Australia v Spain – ITV
5pm – Holland v Chile – ITV
9pm – Japan v Columbia – BBC
9pm – Greece v Ivory Coast – BBC
5pm – England v Costa Rica – ITV
9pm – Ecuador v France – BBC
9pm – Honduras v Switzerland – BBC
5pm – Nigeria v Argentina – ITV
5pm – Bosnia v Iran – ITV
9pm – South Korea v Belgium – ITV
9pm – Algeria v Russia – ITV
5pm – USA V Germany – BBC
5pm – Portugal v Ghana – BBC