TV Answer Man, I watched the Minnesota-Penn State Big Ten tournament game in 4K last night on YouTube TV and the picture was terrible! It was completely washed out like the colors were drained or something or someone put a filter on it. Why did this happen? — Joey, Omaha, Nebraska. 

Joey, Fox Sports this week is streaming 23 college basketball tournament games in 4K, including action from the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12. The games can be seen in 4K on the Fox Sports app or special 4K channels on various pay TV providers including DIRECTV, Comcast, Dish, FuboTV, YouTube TV, Optimum, and Verizon.

The 4K coverage began last night with Big Ten and Big East games and I’ve received several e-mails this morning from readers saying either the picture looked great or not-so-great.

How can that be?

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Welcome to the unbearable madness of being a 4K TV owner.

Yes, anyone who has tried to watch 4K on a consistent basis knows that it’s anything but consistent. Often, the picture looks great. But sometimes, it looks awful. And sometimes it’s in between so you’re not really sure if it’s HD or 4K.

The reasons for the consistent inconsistency of a live 4K broadcast could fill a book. But they include whether you have calibrated your set; whether the broadcast is produced in 4K, or produced in high-def and ‘upscaled’ to 4K (Fox does that with its live sports), the pay TV service or app you are using (some are better than others), whether you are watching over the Internet (a poor connection can cause technical problems), whether the broadcast team is having infrastructure issues, and whether your TV provider is having technical issues. And so on and so on.

Unlike High-Definition, which usually delivers a consistent live picture, 4K’s picture quality can vary. Two people who are even in the same household can have totally different takes on how the 4K images look depending upon which device and set they are using, and whether the Internet connection is better in one room over the other.

The lack of a consistent standard is a major reason why 4K TV has not become the next big thing. It’s difficult to gin up any positive word-of-mouth when you can’t say that 4K looks great all the time.

Last night, according to message boards, it would appear that YouTube TV’s 4K subscribers were most upset with the 4K picture for both the Big Ten and Big East games. (Although some subscribers said they liked the Big East picture; once again, opinions vary as does the picture quality).

Here’s a sampling of comments posted on Twitter:

YouTube TV’s Twitter customer support team acknowledged they had received a number of complaints and said they would ‘look into it.’ But the team never provided an update.

So, Joey, and all 4K TV owners, all I can tell you is that 4K TV, particularly live 4K sports, can be a wonderous thing. But it can also be an exercise in futility and frustration.

Hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann