Super Bowl 2020 Will Be In 4K (Sort Of)


Q. I’m confused. I read here that the Super Bowl will be in 4K, but I also read it won’t be produced in 4K. What’s up with that? Will it be in 4K or not? — Pete, Tampa, Florida. 

Pete, I don’t blame you for being confused. As usual, the 4K TV industry has done a splendid job of sending a mixed message that makes it difficult for even this grizzled industry veteran to understand what it’s doing.

Let me try to explain.

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Fox has the broadcast rights to Super Bowl LIV, which will be played February 2, 2020 at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. During Fox’s quarterly analyst call last month, company CEO Lachlan Murdoch revealed that Fox will offer a 4K stream of the big game.

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“We’re excited to be the first broadcaster ever to stream the Super Bowl in 4K. It will be a groundbreaking experience for fans,” Murdoch said.

The Fox executive did not offer further details, such as which streaming devices will offer the 4K stream. (The Fox Thursday Night Football 4K stream is available on select Apple and Roku devices.)

You would think that Murdoch’s Super Bowl revelation would get 4K TV viewers super excited.


Sports Video Group reported yesterday that Mike Davies, Fox’s vice president for engineering, said at an industry conference that the network will produce the game in 1080p HDR (High Dynamic Range) not 4K HDR. (For more on why Davies said it will be produced in 1080p, and not 4K, click here.)

So Murdoch says there will be a 4K stream of the game, but Davies says the game will be in 1080p. How can that be?

Answer: Upscaling.

Upscaling is the process when one video format is converted to another. In this case, Fox will take the 1080p HDR signal and convert it to a 4K format, presumably 4K HDR. (This is what Fox has been doing this season with the 4K display of Thursday Night Football; the Thursday games have not been produced in 4K, but they have been upscaled to 4K.)

As you can probably already guess, upscaling 4K is not as good as what’s called, native 4K, which means the original event was produced in 4K, and broadcast or streamed in 4K as well.

The upscaled 4K picture on your home TV should look better than a 1080p or 1080i picture, but it won’t look as good as a 4K picture of an event that was produced in 4K. There may be a reduction in detail, color and clarity.

So, Pete, the answer to your question is that Super Bowl 2020 will be in 4K. But it might not look as pretty as some 4K fans would hope.

Final note: Murdoch did not say which, if any, pay TV providers will offer the Super Bowl in 4K. So I will monitor this situation and report back here when we get more information on Fox’s 4K plans for the 2020 Super Bowl.

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6 comments on “Super Bowl 2020 Will Be In 4K (Sort Of)”

  1. Does that mean that they do not have the equipment to produce the game in 4k? It would seem to me that they could down scale much easier for their other viewers and have a good picture in HD and also 4k or is there another reason?

  2. What, are there at least 15 million or more 4K TV’s in North America now & Mike Davies @ Fox can’t offer the United States of Americas biggest sporting event in the world, year after year I might add in something less than 4K, Fox TV & Mike Davies, this is 2020, get with the program.

  3. I underestimated my numbers, North America has close to 380 million people & 1 in 4 households has a 4K TV, probably closer to 80 million households could actually watch the Super Bowl in 4K.

  4. Dish has just announced that it will air this in 4k via satellite. This is great. Most of Dish’s 4k content has actually been streamed over the Internet requiring a high-speed Internet connection.

    Also, to Don Wilson, while I completely agree with your conclusion — there are plenty of us with 4k TVs, so give us the content! — about 330M people in the US and about 130M households (multiple people per household). If you’re 1-in-4 number is right for 4k TVs, that would be about 30-35M households, but that would indeed cover about 80-85M individuals.

  5. Just another case of people with money attempting to dupe the public. If the Super Bowl isn’t produced with 4K cameras, the reception will not be a true 4K view. Anything to get more viewers therefore, more revenue.

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