Sky HD gives viewers the boot

Sky’s HD service - due to launch on 22 May, with a package of high-definition channels – will be unavailable to most World Cup fans...

Live coverage of the World Cup in HD on BBC channels is one of the new service’s biggest attractions, along with other HD channels like Sky One and Discovery.

But many football fans buying HD TVs to watch the World Cup will be disappointed because Sky admits it can't cope with demand for the (£299) HD set top boxes.

Sky spokesman Robert Fraser, says: 'Because of the strong demand, we are no longer able to offer installation dates before the World Cup. Earliest installation would be July.

'We have been taking advance orders since April. We have had a very strong response with more than 40,000 orders in the first three weeks.'

As a result, anyone ordering Sky's HD satellite service now will not get it installed until after the tournament is over.

There are alternatives, such as buying new HD set-top boxes suitable to pick up the Freeview digital satellite channels, which includes the BBC's World Cup coverage.

However, these boxes are extremely scarce, with high street retailers Dixons and Currys not stocking them.

Unlike conventional British TV pictures, which are made up of 576 lines of pixels, HD pictures are made up of either 720 or 1080 lines. Each line refreshes itself more frequently than on a standard television, creating images that are four times as sharp.

HD will not be available via terrestrial until at least 2012 for most people. And other broadcasters, such as ITV and Channel 4, have yet to announce their own national HD trials.

Cable company Telewest launched the UK's first high-definition television service earlier this month, though the service is currently limited to programmes made by BBC Worldwide.