Those asking "can I watch Super Bowl 2021 in 4K?" expect to be told "yes," and with good reason. Last year's broadcast of the big game was in 4K, so this year's should be too, right? Plus, 4K TVs are more popular than ever.
But since the game is starting right now, we can tell you to stop looking for the Super Bowl in 4K. No such luck this year.
Despite all the above logic, Super Bowl live streams will max out at 1080p (without HDR) for this year. And it's because of two reasons: the network it's on and the times we live in. Yes, football fans, you can (partially) blame CBS this year.
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So while Super Bowl LIV (aka Super Bowl 54) was streaming live in 4K and HDR on FOX last year, we're not getting the same treatment this year because CBS has this year's game.
So, yes, apparently CBS doesn't have the same expertise that FOX does when it comes to ultra high-def streams. Weird, right?
You'd assume that the NFL itself would have some ability to bridge the gap or something, for the sake of making the biggest game of the year look like it's the biggest game of the year. Alas, that's not the case.
And CBS couldn't learn in time because of the same reason that everything in sports and entertainment is broken this year:
We're not getting Super Bowl in 4K because of COVID
CBS Sports Digital told The Verge that "production limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic" are the primary reason it can't learn how to make a 4K Super Bowl live stream happen for Chiefs vs Buccaneers.
Yes, because of how COVID-19 regulations have increased how we all work remotely this year, broadcasting the big game is more complicated than ever. So, CBS Sports Digital had to reprioritize.
CBS Sports Digital said it's focusing instead of making sure its streams are both reliable and low on latency. Since the memories of the low quality ESPN Plus streams from UFC 257 are fresh in our heads, we're not going to argue against CBS making sure it gets the basics right. You do not want to fumble the Super Bowl stream.