Super Bowl 2021 won’t stream in 4K or HDR this year — because of COVID

The 2021 Super Bowl won’t be available to stream in 4K or HDR this year when it airs on February 7th, CBS Sports Digital has confirmed to The Verge. The company is citing production limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.

Last year marked the first time that the Super Bowl was available in 4K and HDR, but that stream was broadcast by Fox Sports, which had a lot more experience broadcasting 4K NFL games, having previously offered numerous games in 4K during both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

CBS, on the other hand, has never offered an NFL game in 4K / HDR before. Given the additional complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating more remote operations than usual, the company had to change plans for this year’s big game.

For what its worth, though, even Fox’s streams weren’t in true 4K, thanks to the complexity of live sports broadcasts — which, for the NFL, involves dozens of cameras in multiple locations shooting different angles of the action, along with specialty slow-motion equipment. Previous 4K streams — including last year’s Super Bowl — were actually shot in 1080p and HDR, then upscaled to 4K for the broadcast.

Despite the lack of 4K or HDR for this year’s championship, CBS Sports Digital is promising that it’ll be focusing on ensuring that streams are reliable and low-latency for this year’s broadcast, and that it remains committed to offering more live sports in 4K and HDR in the future.

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