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The NFL in 4K HDR starts with a rocky start at Fox Sports

It didn't go as planned for Fox Sports viewers who were hoping to watch the first Thursday night NFL football game on September 26 in 4K HDR. Comcast removed the 4K HDR feed at the last minute from the cable setup for unknown reasons. A transport dispute meant that Dish Network customers have not understood the game at all. The Fox Sports Apple TV app crashed at launch unless users immediately navigated to another screen. There were widespread audio problems that Reddit users discovered switch to the secondary audio feed was a huge improvement.

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Fox Sports said the emphasis in his production work was not only on 4K resolution rather HDR colors and dynamic range … and then it didn't deliver an HDR feed to any of the streaming services on it listed as supportive.

The heart of the problem is a good old-fashioned format war: live television broadcast has moved to an HDR standard called hybrid log-range or HLG, while most consumer devices have given priority to support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats , which is what most movies and TV shows are encoded. (In general, Dolby Vision and HDR10 are known as perceptual quantizer formats, and they depending on additional brightness metadata to work while HLG does not.)

What all that means is that Fox Sports released a press release that said Thursday Night Football would stream in 4K HDR to Apple TV and Roku devices, and then delivered an HLG HDR stream that those devices don't support. Streaming viewers did get a 4K SDR feed that looked really good, but because the production itself was in 1080p and scaled up to 4K, it wasn't a huge leap forward in quality. The jump had to come from HDR, and it wasn't there.

Fox Sports managed to deliver a full HLG 4K HDR feed to traditional broadcast partners: DirecTV, Altice Optimum and Fios users all reported seeing the game in 4K HDR on the special 4K channels of those services – and it looked great according to all accounts.

I asked Fox Sports why it wasn't clear that HDR would only be available on traditional cable and satellite systems, and this is what I got back:

For now, the best bet for HLG support is DirecTV or an MVPD partner. They have full control from shipping to the set-top box to an installation to visit and configure things.

In the app we expand support for more use cases during the course of the season.

Hopefully Fox Sports will discover how they can deliver the full experience that her teams are producing hard own app while the NFL season continues and because it adds more sports, such as the MLB play-offs in 4K HDR.