There may be thousands of hours of 4K and HDR content available to watch online from Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV, and Disney+, but folks still complain there’s no 4K content to watch on their new 4K TVs. As large as the cord-cutter club may be, the vast majority of Americans still get their TV programming from cable and satellite providers like DirecTV, Dish, and Comcast Xfinity, and most broadcasters don’t supply much (if any) 4K content to watch. That’s about to change.
For the first time, 4K TV-owning football fans the nation over will be able to enjoy the biggest game of the year with more detail, better contrast, and more realistic color. Fox Sports has announced Super Bowl LIV will be delivered in Ultra High Definition 4K HDR to a massive audience.
What’s more, I’ll be on the ground in Miami with a crew from Digital Trends to bring you all the behind-the-scenes action as crews buckle up to deliver their biggest broadcast ever.
How can I watch Super Bowl LIV in 4K HDR?
In order to enjoy this year’s game with the best picture quality and sound, you’ll first need a 4K HDR TV. If you don’t already have a 4K HDR-capable set, the good news is that a new one doesn’t have to set you back a small fortune. We’ve got several 4K TV suggestions for under $500. With that said, if you spend a bit more, you’ll get even better picture quality.
With the right TV in place, you’ll need to choose how you’re going to get the 4K HDR program from Fox. The network has told Digital Trends that it will feed the signal to DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast Xfinity X1, Altice Optimum, and Verizon FIOS. If you subscribe to one of these providers, you’ll need to make sure you have a subscription tier that gets you access to the 4K-capable channels that will carry the game.
If you’re not subscribed to one of those services, you’ll need to use a streaming app. Fox has told me that the FOX Sports, FOX NOW, and FuboTV apps will carry the game in 4K HDR. However, you’ll want to make sure that the streaming device you use to access those apps is 4K HDR capable.
If you have purchased a 4K HDR TV in the last few years, there’s a good chance it is a smart TV with apps built right in. For many folks, this is the easiest way to get the game in 4K HDR and the most likely to get you the best quality picture.
If you use a separate streaming box or stick, it seems your results may vary. Fox told me that, for now, the Amazon Fire TV 4K will deliver 4K HDR, while the Apple TV 4K will offer 4K SDR (standard dynamic range). I’ve reached out to Fox for confirmation on whether the Roku platform will be supported, and if so, whether the broadcast will be in HDR or SDR. I’ll update this article when I find out, but for now, I have to wonder if Roku players or Roku TVs will be supported at all. If not, that would leave many 4K TCL TV owners in the dust.
Will it be that much better?
Those who are able to enjoy Super Bowl in 4K HDR or 4K SDR will enjoy a much-improved picture over prior years, though I will point out that those who get the HDR version will net the most benefit.
Technically speaking, FOX will produce the broadcast natively in 1080p at 60fps (frames per second) in HLG HDR, then upconvert the signal to 2160p (4K UHD) at 60fps with HLG. The fact that the game is being natively produced in 1080p is, alone, a pretty noteworthy factor as far as resolution is concerned, but the HDR mastering that will take place will likely make the biggest difference.
In the past, the best cable and satellite providers could deliver was a 720p/1080i signal. With the game being produced in 1080p, we’ve already taken a leap forward. That it will be professionally upconverted to and delivered in 4K just takes the upconversion work off the shoulders of our TVs.
If your TV doesn’t support HLG HDR (most do) or your streaming box or platform can’t deliver it, not to worry, you’ll still get a better picture than before. But if you can unlock HDR, expect more vibrant colors and much better contrast. The gleam of stadium lights off of helmets should be particularly spectacular, as will the subtle details in the darker shades of the action.
Professional sports broadcasting has always been a gateway to mass adoption in many different TV tech areas. Streaming TV didn’t really take off until pro sports were widely available. Now, with FOX providing Super Bowl LIV in 4K HDR, the floodgates may open, rushing in more and more ultra-high definition, high dynamic range content to feed our fancy new TVs the signal they have been crying out for.
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