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.
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.
“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?
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.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann