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AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

After The Entire World Cup Was In 4K, The NFL Should Be Next

The World Cup is a huge event, with millions of people watching the tournament that ended with the USWNT winning its second consecutive title. The tournament comes around just once every four years, and it’s a worldwide event with rabid fans in the stands and at home. Many of those that did watch at home—including DIRECTV and Xfinity subscribers in the United States—were able to watch all 64 World Cup matches in glorious 4K.


Fortunately, I was able to watch the World Cup in 4K; and let me tell you, the difference between full-HD and ultra-HD is truly striking. Because 1080p looks so great (or so I thought), I wasn’t sure how much of a difference there would be for the 4K broadcast, especially on an excellent television that upscales non-4K content and makes it look exceptional. But the difference was indeed huge.


It probably shouldn’t be a surprise considering the resolution increase, but the difference seems about as big as the jump from standard definition to high definition. When the 4K World Cup feed had issues, switching to the normal high-definition FOX broadcast showed the obvious difference in clarity between the two formats. The normal broadcast actually looked blurry when in comparison to 4K.


14 million people in the United States tuned into the World Cup Final, which is an impressive number. For the USWNT, much of the country was proud of the team, and they have received a lot of support for years. However, that 14 million does not come close to the biggest sporting event in the United States every year: the Super Bowl. If all 64 World Cup matches can be available in 4K, it’s time the NFL and its broadcasters figure something out to have America’s sport available in the same format—from Week 1 through Super Bowl Sunday.


I know, there are obstacles to accomplishing this. For example, cable providers won’t like it if DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket got all its games in ultra-high-definition. But Xfinity getting into the 4K game shows that cable could be a lot closer to more 4K content quicker than most people imagined. Also, delivering the best quality video possible should be a priority for the NFL, and it’s something they should be able to work out.


With the entire World Cup, golf tournaments, and even forgettable regular season NBA games getting the 4K treatment, getting NFL games in 4K is long overdue. Some college football has been available in 4K via DIRECTV, too, and I anticipate more games will be available in 2019.


The three main NFL broadcast companies—FOX (World Cup, college football), CBS (golf), and NBC (Olympics)—have all aired sporting events in 4K. It’s not like they can’t get it done. The fourth broadcast company (ESPN) hasn’t aired any major 4K events yet, but Disney would be able to make it happen if that’s what the NFL wants.


Trust me, I know some NFL games today—FOX in particular—don’t even look good in supposed 1080p, and some people will argue that we should get full HD right before moving to 4K. The video would have to be less compressed (likely the main culprit for poor HD quality), which might not happen any time soon. So, while I get people want better 1080p viewing, that doesn’t mean we can’t hope for a jump to 4K, especially with ultra-high-definition soon becoming the majority thanks to competition and lower prices.


Additionally, right now, there are issues with watching 4K events. For Xfinity, the World Cup games in 4K were about a half-minute behind the normal broadcast, as they were shown via an On-Demand channel instead of a normal channel. That’s not ideal when people want their information and results as quickly as possible. Also, the broadcast would occasionally freeze up and stutter (not often, but it would be more annoying in a sport like football, or if it happened in key moments).


Overall, a 4K option should be made available for those that can access it. It might help if a huge company like Amazon can jump in and make 4K streams happen without a delay of more than a few seconds (or none at all), forcing cable and satellite providers to step up their games and compete. We know the giant Jeff Bezos-owned company has enough funds to basically do whatever it wants.


The World Cup is a quadrennial event that draws considerable interest in the United States and around the world, so it makes sense that the event should be shown in 4K—it’s a rare event that deserves resources like 4K cameras for every match. But in the U.S., where over 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year, the country’s favorite sport should be readily available in ultra-high-definition.


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