Live sports on Sky are finally getting a High Dynamic Range (HDR) upgrade, on compatible Sky Q devices, just in time for the Olympics and the start of the Premier League.
The bad news? Only some will be able to get it, depending on your exact subscription and device (see ahead for the full list of requirements).
And, most notably, NOW streaming subscribers with a Sky Sports pass won’t get it – as NOW doesn’t currently support 4K, let alone HDR.
HDR (“High Dynamic Range”), which usually goes hand in hand with 4K, helps improve the contrast rates between whites and blacks, making the picture more accurate. Additionally, it provides a larger colour palette and more colour shades.
Some say HDR makes an even bigger difference in the picture quality you see on your TV than 4K – but it depends a whole lot on the quality of your TV (on some low-end televisions, bad HDR can potentially make things worse, making everything look too dark).
To complicate things even further, there are several competing HDR standards – so you would need your TV to support the same HDR format your player supports. In Sky Q’s case, that is the HLG format (which is also the one the BBC uses for Ultra HD / HDR broadcasts on iPlayer).
While Ultra HD (4K) quality programming was already available on Sky Q (including on some of the sporting events), HDR was not supported until now for sports (though it is already available on BT Sport).
Starting today (Friday), you will be able to watch over 200 hours from the Tokyo Olympics in 4K/HDR, on a new dedicated channel – Eurosport 4K, which is accessible via Sky Q’s red button.
Since Eurosport is part of most basic packages on Sky, you do not need an extra Sky Sports subscription to watch the Olympics. Some events and documentaries, however, will air on Discovery+, but Sky customers can currently get 12 months of Discovery+ for free.
Remember that you can also watch most of the major Olympic events on the BBC – without needing a Sky or Discovery+ subscription at all.
However, the BBC has confirmed to us there are no plans to cover the Olympics in Ultra HD (4K) this year.
In addition to the Tokyo Olympics, Sky will also air live Premier League games in 4K and HDR, starting next month – kicking off with the first fixture on Friday 13 August, with the Brentford VS Arsenal match.
For Premier League games, you do need a Sky Sports or Sky Sports Football subscription, as well as the Ultra HD addon if you want to see it in 4K and – now – in HDR.
Disappointingly, the basic NOW Sky Sports membership only supports a resolution of 720p, with the NOW Boost addon adding support for Full HD (1080p) – but there’s no 4K (or HDR) support (though that may come in the future… at some point).
How Do I Get HDR Live Sports on Sky?
To watch HDR on Sky Q, you need:
- A Sky Q box that supports HDR (Some older Sky Q boxes do not support it! To find out whether your model does, see this chart from Sky)
- HD and Ultra HD (4K) Sky add-ons (or the Sky Q Experience)
- A TV that supports 4K and HDR – and specifically, the HLG format. Do note that most TVs support the more popular HDR10 format – so make sure your TV also supports HLG.
- Make sure your Sky Q’s resolution is set to 2160p UHD and 10 Bit.
If you don’t have the Ultra HD add-on, Sky is offering a special three-month free offer via the Sky VIP app available from 16 July to 26 August.
Note that for the Tokyo Olympics, you don’t need a Sky Sports subscription, as the Olympics are available on Eurosport. The 4K / HDR content is accessible either by using the red button, or by using the Sky Q Voice Remote and saying “Olympics in Ultra HD and HDR”.
To watch the Premier League in Ultra HD with HDR, you do need a Sky Sports subscription, and you can switch to HDR by using the red button during the game.