Fox Sports announced back in December 2019 that the Super Bowl LIV will be the first Super Bowl to be streamed in 4K — a resolution sharper than traditional HD cable TV broadcasting — as well as high-dynamic-range (HDR).
That's great news for any football fan who has dreamed of watching the Super Bowl in the utmost video quality.
Except, Super Bowl LIV won't actually be streamed in 4K resolution. The game itself will be produced in a more standard 1080p HD resolution, Fox Sports executives said during Sports Video Group (SVG) Summit in December 2019, and the video stream will be upscaled to 4K resolution. It's the same concept Fox Sports has used for its 4K Thursday Night Football streaming, where games produced in 1080p HD are upscaled to 4K resolution.
That's to say the base video will be standard 1080p resolution, and it'll be artificially upscaled to 4K.
Upscaling 1080p video to 4K resolution does produce a sharper image than standard 1080p video. But Super Bowl LIV won't necessarily look better than before, at least if you've already been watching the Super Bowl on a 4K TV.
Upscaling video from a lower resolution like 1080p to 4K is already something that most 4K TVs do. So, anyone who streamed regular 1080p Super Bowls in previous years on a 4K TV will likely already have watched games that were upscaled to 4K.
In turn, that's to say that Super Bowl LIV should technically look about the same on 4K TVs as it always has. One of the major differences is that the upscaling is being done by Fox Sports rather than your 4K TV. Whether Fox Sports' 4K upscaling is any better than your 4K TV's upscaling is unclear. Fox Sports has yet to respond to Business Insider's requests for clarification.
Why isn't Fox Sports simply streaming the game in true 4K?
"There are some real reasons why sports in general looks better in 1080p versus being shot natively in 4K," Fox Sports senior vice president of field and technical operations Michael Davies said at the SVG Summit.
With that in mind, streaming natively in true 4K resolution may not be the best option for the Super Bowl, at least until TVs that play video at higher frames-per-second become more ubiquitous.