ESPN confirmed today to the TV Answer Man that it will provide a 4K feed of next week’s college football championship game between top-ranked Alabama and third-ranked Georgia as part of its MegaCast. (The game is scheduled for kickoff on January 10 at 8 p.m. ET.)
The sports network said the 4K broadcast 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 include the ESPN radio play-by-play rather than the play-by-play or commentary from the ESPN TV announcing crew.
What’s not known yet is which TV providers will provide the 4K broadcast on special channels available to subscribers with 4K TVs and 4K-enabled set-tops. Unlike Fox, ESPN does not stream live 4K sporting events on its apps or web site. The only way to watch them is if your TV provider offers the 4K version on the provider’s 4K channel.
Update: Directv says it will offer the 4K feed.
Update #2: Comcast, YouTube TV and Verizon will also carry the 4K feed.
An ESPN spokesperson told the TV Answer Man today that she was still waiting to hear which providers would carry the 4K feed. (ESPN will simulcast the game in HD on the main ESPN channel and offer different views on other ESPN channels as part of the Megacast presentation.)
During the 2021 college football season, DIRECTV, YouTube TV and Verizon were the only pay TV services that offered ESPN’s games in 4K. However, Comcast last month signed a new carriage deal with Disney, which includes ESPN, and that could permit the cable operator to offer the game in 4K as well.
The TV Answer Man has asked Comcast whether it plans to provide the championship contest in 4K, but has yet to receive a response.
We will update this story when we get more information on which pay TV services will carry the game in 4K.
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