By The TV Answer Man team

TV Answer Man, I saw your article about YouTube showing the NFL Sunday Ticket in 1080p but not 4K. It seems from their statement that they would like the games to be in 4K but they are trying to talk the networks into doing 4K broadcasts. My question is why don’t the networks do this? People want it, right? Give the people what they want! — Jamal, Manhattan Beach, California.
Jamal, you’re right. Google recently disclosed Sunday Ticket games on YouTube will come from distinct source feeds broadcast in 1080p (both native and upscaled). While that won’t be 4K, it will be a marked improvement over what you would see on your local CBS and Fox stations. Fox affiliates broadcast live sports in 720p HD while CBS stations do 1080i HD. Google added that it’s working with its “partners” to provide games in 4K.

But why don’t those partners, CBS and Fox, broadcast the Sunday afternoon games in 4K? (CBS has never done an NFL game in 4K. Fox has done the Super Bowl and several playoff games in the format, but just a handful of regular season games in 4K.) There are five major reasons:
1. Bandwidth and Infrastructure Challenges
One of the primary challenges that CBS and Fox face in broadcasting NFL games in 4K is the significant increase in bandwidth requirements. 4K resolution boasts four times the number of pixels as standard high-definition (HD) broadcasts, which results in substantially larger data streams. While Internet infrastructure has improved over the years, broadcasting a live sports event to millions of households in 4K demands an unparalleled level of bandwidth, potentially causing strain on networks and leading to disruptions in service quality. This is one reason why Fox’s 4K sportscasts have actually been upscaled from 1080p.

2. Viewership Reach and Compatibility
Another key consideration is ensuring that the viewing experience is accessible to the broadest audience possible. Not all viewers possess 4K-compatible devices, which could limit the potential reach of 4K broadcasts. While the adoption of 4K TVs and devices is steadily increasing, many households still rely on HD displays. CBS and Fox must strike a balance between pushing the envelope of technology and providing an inclusive experience for all viewers. Fox has tried to provide for both by offering the 4K feed to TV providers that have special 4K channels, and putting it on the Fox Sports app.
3. Production Costs and Resources
Transitioning to 4K broadcasting requires substantial investments in production equipment, personnel training, and technical infrastructure. NFL games are complex productions that involve numerous cameras, graphics, and audio systems, all of which need to be upgraded or replaced to support 4K content creation. These upgrades come with significant costs, which may be prohibitive for networks, especially when considering the potential returns from increased viewership due to 4K broadcasts.
4. Logistical Challenges and Real-time Broadcasting
The NFL is known for its live action and unpredictability. The fast-paced nature of the game demands seamless real-time broadcasting that can sometimes be challenging to achieve in the context of 4K. Delays in transmitting 4K feeds could lead to mismatches between live commentary and actual gameplay, disrupting the viewing experience and causing frustration among fans.

5. Sponsorship and Advertising Considerations
Advertising is a crucial revenue stream for NFL broadcasts, and advertisers expect their content to be showcased effectively. Transitioning to 4K broadcasts requires adapting ad content to the higher resolution, which could be a time-consuming and costly process. Additionally, potential technical glitches during the ad spots’ transmission could undermine the effectiveness of ad campaigns, prompting both CBS and Fox to tread cautiously.

Jamal, hope that helps.

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