Here's why you can't watch the Super Bowl in 4K - and what you can do instead

Super Bowl LVI
(Image credit: NBC)

Whether you've got a party planned, or you've got the TV all to yourself, it's undeniable that the Super Bowl is one of the biggest broadcasting events of the year.

If you want to watch Super Bowl 2022 in the best possible quality, however, we've got some bad news. NBC recently announced that this year's big game won't be broadcast in 4K UHD resolution (as originally reported by The Verge).

That's not exactly a rarity. Last year's Super Bowl LV was broadcast in standard HD by CBS after the network cited the organizational difficulties presented by the pandemic. In fact, Fox is the only network able to show the game in that glorious Ultra-HD resolution (and did so only for the first time back in 2020). 

That's not to say your hard-won Super Bowl TV deals will be in vain. If you're using the big game to upgrade your entertainment setup you'll still benefit from enhanced colors, better motion handling, and greater contrasts with a premium set. However, those looking to watch the Super Bowl in high quality 4K may have to do a little more digging. 

Why isn't NBC broadcasting the Super Bowl in 4K?

NBC isn't broadcasting the Super Bowl in 4K for the simple reason that it doesn't have the distribution platform to do so just yet.

However, many have found such an explanation a little thin. After all, the network has successfully shown the Olympics in 4K HDR... kind of. 

NBC's coverage of the Tokyo Olympics was available in 4K HDR, but only through partner services like FuboTV, YouTube TV, and Xfinity. NBC's own apps and networks were still streaming in standard definition.

However, even streaming the Super Bowl on the likes of FuboTV or Sling TV won't yield 4K results this year. 


(Image credit: NBC)
Super Bowl key info

Super Bowl LVI will kick off on Sunday February 13 at 6.30pm ET / 3.30pm PT / 11.30pm GMT at SoFi Stadium, LA.

The Cincinnati Bengals will face off against home team the LA Rams in a bid to claim their first Lombardi in franchise history.

Neither NBC, CBS, nor ESPN have the infrastructure to broadcast football games in 4K, with Fox only being able to do so by upscaling its standard HD footage once it comes down to the wire. None of these channels broadcast regular season and post-season games in UHD either.

It takes a lot to put the whole Super Bowl package together, and even more to ensure that each halftime performer, slow motion replay, and commercial seamlessly flows in 4K HDR. It's easy to see why the technology has been put on the backburner considering the scramble to put on the big show, but now that 4K is firmly on the road to industry standard a full UHD season can't be too far away.

Can you still watch Super Bowl LVI in 4K?

That brand new TV might not go to waste though. There is a way to watch every play in a crystal clear picture, and that's through 4K upscaling.

If you own a 4K TV, it's worth checking to see if your set can take HD content and fine tune it to produce a clearer, more detailed UHD picture. 

Some 4K TVs can do this better than others; Sony sets are particularly adept while cheaper TCL and Sharp sets will struggle a little more. However, the process taking place is largely the same from display to display.

Super Bowl on TV

(Image credit: Getty)

Your TV can take a Full HD picture from a broadcast and inflate it for a larger 4K resolution, while reducing noise, sharpening details, and defining textures a little better.

The result is a crisper image overall, with greater attention to smaller details. It won't be the same as a native 4K stream, but it will still be better than viewing on a Full HD set.

Should you buy a 4K TV for the Super Bowl? 

NBC's broadcast may throw a spanner in the works if a 4K Super Bowl stream was a driving factor behind your decision to upgrade your setup this month. You won't be able to use your new TV to its fullest potential for this year's game (even upscaling won't be quite as crisp as a full 4K stream), but picking up a new display will still help you get more out of this week's big game. 

The latest 4K TVs go beyond a crisper picture, so you can enjoy enhanced colors and contrast as well as better audio on top. You'll still feel the benefits of your purchase this weekend. 

Beyond the big game, though, there's more 4K content available than ever. Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and more all stream in 4K with hundreds of titles up for viewing. As the technology behind 4K displays grows cheaper, we'll see a far greater spread of UHD content up for grabs as well. 

Tabitha Baker
Deals Editor

Tabs is a Deals Editor at TechRadar, bringing you all the latest savings on the tech everyone's talking about and covering deals on gaming, laptops, tablets and more in the US and UK. Happiest with a DualSense controller in her hand, she's also contributed to GamesRadar, Tom's Guide and T3 and specializes in gaming hardware and computing.