YouTube TV did 4K sports right — so maybe it’s time to cancel it

Let us stipulate a few things: When it comes to video, higher resolution is better. Sure, there are diminishing returns — I wouldn’t go out and buy an 8K television just yet. But going from 720p to 1080p is a huge leap in quality. Maybe a little less so when you go from 1080p to 4K, but that’s also very much going to depend on your circumstances — television size, what room you’re in, etc.

And one more stipulation: 4K for World Cup 2022 was pretty much a necessity. If you’ve ever watched live sports in 4K, you probably already knew that. FuboTV has had some live sports for years now, and YouTube TV — which is the most popular live service in the U.S., and more than five times larger than FuboTV with more than 5 million subscribers at last count — has had it as an option since the summer of 2021. You also could watch in 4K via the Fox Sports app, provided that you already had a subscription to a cable, satellite, or streaming service.

World Cup in 4K on YouTube TV.

Much of 4K resolution being necessary was due to Fox itself. For whatever reason, its live sports too often are sourced at a lower frame rate. If you’ve ever flipped between Fox and CBS NFL games on a Sunday, you know exactly what that means. Combine the lower frame rate with a lower resolution, and live sports become practically unwatchable. I had to abandon a game at my parents’ house because the lower-res broadcast via their cable provider was that unwatchable. Once you’ve seen a game in 4K, you’re never going back.

YouTube TV made watching matches in 4K relatively easy, even if the channel scheme is a bit of a mess. A channel that’s in 4K — whether it’s Fox or ESPN or NBC — is a completely separate channel. That means you’ll have to manually tune to it if you’re used to flipping through your live guide. That’s not ideal.

But YouTube TV is as much about recommendations as it is anything else, and that came into play with World Cup matches. If you selected a game from the recommendations on the Home menu, it’d list all the options to watch. And since I was subscribed to the 4K Plus plan on YouTube TV, it was the first option. So, too, was a Spanish-language broadcast on Telemundo, which is a nice touch.

YouTube TV did it right, mostly, but at a fairly steep cost. The 4K Plus plan costs an extra $20 a month, which takes your subscription to a minimum of $85 a month, before taxes and any other add-ons. Yes, you get more than just live sports in 4K with that package — there’s also a bunch of on-demand content, and the ability to watch on as many devices as you want at home. But that’s still pretty steep, especially when you consider that FuboTV (which is more expensive out of the gate) throws in 4K for free, and you can just use the Fox Sports app to stream in 4K anyway, with whatever other provider you may have.

So kudos to YouTube TV for making the World Cup watchable. And cheers to Super Bowl LVII, which is coming up in February on Fox.

But in the meantime, it might be time to save a little cash.

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