The 2022 Super Bowl won’t be broadcast or streamed in 4K again this year when the game takes place on February 13th, NBC Sports has confirmed to The Verge. The lack of a 4K stream marks the second year in a row that the big game won’t be available with the higher level of picture quality.
“The game will not be in 4K,” Dan Masonson, a spokesperson for NBC Sports, told The Verge.
NBC, which is hosting the big game this year, has never actually aired an NFL game in 4K or HDR before, despite hosting the nationally televised Sunday Night Football game every week during the regular NFL season. NBC, for what it's worth, isn’t the only network: CBS doesn’t produce any of its games in 4K (the network cited COVID-19 issues for the lack of a 4K Super Bowl in 2021), nor does ESPN with Monday Night Football.
Fox Sports started broadcasting some of its Thursday Night Football games in 4K in 2019, and three seasons later is still the only broadcaster to offer NFL games 4K/HDR quality. And even that has limitations: Fox only does it for select Thursday night games — and Super Bowl 2020, the only Super Bowl to date that has been broadcast in 4K — and its footage is actually shot in 1080p and HDR, then upscaled to 4K for broadcast, rather than true, native 4K video.
Still, there was some hope that NBC would manage to pull off Super Bowl LVI in 4K, given that the network has started to slowly expand its 4K sport offers. Last year’s Tokyo Olympics had an (extremely messy) slate of 4K programming, and the network has already announced plans to air large portions of the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in 4K, too.
Part of the problem is that NBC still doesn’t have a 4K distribution method for the vast majority of fans; last year’s Olympic broadcasts were in 4K and HDR (some events event had Dolby Atmos), but the 4K programming wasn’t actually available in any of NBC’s apps (including the regular NBC app, the NBC Sports app, and Peacock). Rather, the 4K broadcasts were limited to partners like Altice, Xfinity, Fubo TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV, Dish, and other cable and over-the-top service with 4K support. And even then, coverage was limited to specific events at specific times in specific TV markets.
Plus, as the lone 4K Super Bowl in 2020 showed, actually airing one of the biggest sports games of the year to the millions of fans who tune in is a huge undertaking: there’s the dozens of cameras and slow-motion shots for instant replays, the graphics packages, and of course, the halftime show and the slew of commercials, all of which need to be turned into a cohesive, 4K and HDR package.
There is some good news on the horizon for football fans, though: 2023’s Super Bowl LVII is set to be broadcast on Fox, which could potentially return us to a 4K game day — if we’re lucky!