TV Answer Man, I bought a 4K TV last year, but I don’t know why. The picture is good, but there is so little in 4K, especially live sports. They didn’t even have the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 4K! Why isn’t there more live 4K sports now? — Pete, Norfolk, Virginia.
Pete, I feel your pain. The recent 4K lineup has been sparse indeed. Fox has offered some NASCAR races in 4K, but as you note, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were only available in high-def, as was this year’s Super Bowl and March Madness.
In addition, Fox and ESPN this season have yet to produce any Major League Baseball games in 4K. There have been some recent regional NBA and NHL games in 4K on Comcast and DIRECTV, but no national broadcasts.
There are two reasons why you’re not seeing more live sporting events in 4K now. And they both begin with the letter C.
Whether the live 4K broadcast is produced on site in 4K, or upscaled from HD to 4K, it’s more expensive than a straight high-def production. (Note: Fox upscales its live 4K broadcasts, meaning it produces them in HD, but converts them to 4K for home viewing. ESPN produces the games in 4K on site and transmits them in the format.) The networks are more inclined now to squeeze their pennies with ratings shrinking for all programming, including some live sporting events such as the NBA games.
It’s logistically more difficult to produce a live event in 4K, a problem made even more difficult by Covid restrictions such as social distancing. You simply can’t put your engineers and cameramen anywhere these days.
Covid’s impact on advertising and viewership over the last year has also made the networks pause before investing in more 4K events.
Hopefully, with Covid restrictions easing across the nation, and life returning to normal, Fox, ESPN and other networks that produce live sports, will soon increase their 4K lineups. Network officials understand that scores of millions of Americans now own 4K TV, an audience that’s hungry for more 4K programming.
Pete, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann