Comcast has joined DIRECTV in announcing that it will air this month’s 2021 college football championship game in 4K.
However, the cable operator has revealed that the 4K broadcast (on both DIRECTV and Comcast) will not be ESPN’s main feed. Instead, it will feature the network’s ‘SkyCam,’ which is a camera system suspended over the field, and controlled by a computer. In addition, the 4K feed will only include crowd noise, and no play-by-play or commentary from the ESPN announcing crew.
“The 4K presentation will be the SkyCam with natural sound only (no color commentary),” Comcast says. (To see how the Skycam field view looks, click here.)
The game will feature top-ranked Alabama playing third-ranked Ohio State at 8 p.m. ET on January 11. ESPN will produce the game and simulcast it in HD on the national ESPN channel. (The network used the SkyCam in a multiple-feed, high-def broadcast of last year’s college football championship game between Clemson and LSU; it’s likely to do the same for this year’s game.)
DIRECTV will deliver the 4K broadcast on its channel 105. Comcast X1 video subscribers who have a 4K-enabled set-top (XG1v4 or Xi6 model) can say ‘4K’ into the Xfinity voice remote to display the listing before the game. (Xfinity Flex customers must have a Xi6 model device from the cable operator.)
It’s unclear if other pay TV providers will offer the 4K broadcast as well. But Optimum has carried ESPN’s regular season college football broadcasts in 4K, and therefore would seem likely to air the national championship in the format. Dish and Verizon could also air the game in 4K.
Update: Optimum will offer the game in 4K. Dish and Verizon will not.
For 4K videophiles, the ESPN broadcast of the championship game means it will be available in ‘native 4K’ — the game will be produced and aired in 4K rather than ‘upconverted’ from HD to the format. In contrast, Fox’s Thursday Night Football 4K broadcasts are produced in 1080p and then upconverted to 4K.
The native 4K broadcast should feature a smoother and sharper resolution than one that is upconverted to 4K.
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— Phillip Swann