SuperBowl50The Consumer Technology Association estimates that better than 20 percent of all HDTVs are purchased for the specific purpose of watching the Super Bowl. But around 1 in 5 HDTV owners end up NOT watching the big game or other programs in high definition due to improper setup (source: The Nielsen Company).

At the same time, more consumers will buy a TV during Super Bowl sales than during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and December sales combined, and 46 percent of TV shoppers will buy their first 4K UHD TV this year, according to a consumer survey conducted by online coupon site FatWallet.

The following checklist will help you determine if your HDTV or 4K UHD TV is displaying the sharpest possible picture. Follow along, and we’ll take you through the steps to make sure it’s in shape for Super Bowl viewing.

This year there are three ways to watch Super Bowl 50 in high definition: over-the-air broadcast TV, via a cable/satellite/telco TV service and live streamed from CBS.

Read more on setting up your TV for Super Bowl after the jump:


This year’s Super Bowl is being carried by the CBS network, meaning it is being broadcast in 1080i HDTV. Readers with 1080p TVs will see the game converted to their screen’s resolution of 1920 x 1080p for progressive . Those lucky enough to own a 4K Ultra High Definition TV will see the broadcast upconverted to 3840 x 2160 resolution. To receive the game via a free over-the-air broadcast, you will need an antenna (an over-the-air digital tuner is built-in to all  HDTVs and 4K UHDTVs) and live roughly 25 miles from your local CBS affiliate’s transmitter. You will also need to have a line of sight to the transmitter tower. If there’s a building, hill or mountain between you and the tower, you probably won’t be able to get reliable reception. Check with and/or your local CBS station for more information about what size and type of antenna you’ll need to see the game, as well as the direction where you’ll need to point it.

Cable/Satellite/Telco TV

Because of the difficulties involved with receiving over-the-air broadcasts, a vast majority of viewers instead choose a cable, satellite or telco TV service to get pay TV. But you’ll need the right cable or satellite equipment in order to see the game in glorious high definition. First, make sure your  box is a “High Definition” model. (Cable and satellite providers generally supply a standard-def box by default.) Most HD boxes are labeled “HD,” “HDTV” or “High Definition” on their front panel. If you don’t see this info, your box is probably a standard-def model and will need to be replaced before the big game.

You’ll also need an HDMI interconnect—a type that carries both video and audio over a single cable—to link the box to your HDTV. Get a High-speed version as it can handle any current or future HDTV signal format. Retail stores like Best Buy charge anywhere from $25 to over $100 for an HDMI cable. Most installs need at least a two-meter (6 ft.6 inches) or three-meter (9 ft. 9 inches) run. HDMI cables do not tolerate sharp bends well, so make sure it is long enough to accommodate your setup. Amazon sells a great Hi-Speed HDMI Cable in 3-meter ($6.49) or 2-meter lengths ($5.49).

The next step for cable/satellite/telco TV viewers is to find out from your program provider which channel carries CBS in high definition, as many cable and satellite companies still simulcast a standard-def version on a different channel. Tune to the CBS HD channel and confirm reception. Alternatively, those who speak Spanish may enjoy the game in that language from the ESPN Deportes channel, if your provider and package carries it.

You’ll also need to set the box’s video output resolution via its setup menu. CBS transmits in the 1080i HDTV format. Most large-screen HDTVs screens have a native resolution of 1080p or 4K 3840×2160, however, since their scaling circuits are generally better than the ones found in cable/satellite boxes, we recommend that any upconversion be performed by the TV. That means you’ll need to set the output of the box to its 1080i or the Native (if available) option. You can confirm you are getting a 1080i signal by hitting the “Info” button on your TV’s remote control (the set should display “1080i”  at the top of the screen).

Since setting the output resolution of a video service provider’s set-top box is very brand/model specific, HD Guru recommends that you consult your provider’s customer service department for instructions.

You’ll also need to make sure the cable/satellite box is set to“16×9″ and not “4×3″ mode. If this mode isn’t set correctly, you will see a smaller, cropped image.

Live Streamed

This year, CBS is making the Super Bowl available as a live stream over the Internet, and users can view it on a PC or tablet at, or on their TVs from a variety of streaming media devices including: Roku players, Xbox One, Android TV, and Apple TV. The game will be relayed via the CBS Sports Channel/App on Roku, AppleTV, Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms. Live streaming the game on mobile devices is only available to eligible Verizon Wireless customers via the NFL Mobile App.

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For external media players, ensure the device is connected to the TV via a high-speed HDMI cable as discussed above in the cable/satellite/telco TV section. Then set the output resolution on the Xbox One, Roku or Apple TV by locating the settings app on the device menu.  Find the “display type,” “picture” or “video” selection and select “720p” if you have a smaller screen or less-expensive HD TV with 720p (sometimes shown as 1,366×768 in LCD TVs) resolution; “1080p” if you have a Full HD 1080p TV with 1920×1080 resolution or “4K UHD” if your TV has 4K 3840×2160 resolution. HD Guru recommends that you consult your streaming media adapter’s manual and/or customer service department for instructions if you run into trouble.

In the case of Android TVs, like those offered in some Sony and Sharp models, set up takes place when you first turn on the set. On-screen prompts will take you through the selection of the correct picture and sound settings for the display you purchased. Make sure to select the highest resolution setting that your set is capable of displaying — typically 4K UHD or Full HD 1080 in models out this year. Download the CBS Sports app or the NFL app, click on that app in the Android TV menu at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on game day (Sunday, Feb. 7th), and you’re ready to go.

Depending on the device, you may also need to make sure the media adapter is set to“16:9″ and not “4:3″ mode. If this mode isn’t set correctly, you will see a smaller, cropped image.

HDTV Setup

First, connect the HDMI cable from the box to an HDMI input on your HDTV. You can use “HDMI 1,″  though any HDMI input on your TV will do. Next, select the corresponding input on the TV using its remote control.

To ensure that your set is showing pictures at full high-def resolution, it’s important that you choose the correct aspect ratio mode. All HDTVs have this setting, which is usually accessible via remote control. The setting you’ll want to select should be labeled “Full.” If your set has a sub-control for aspect ratio—e.g., “Dot-by-Dot,” “Native” or “Just Scan”—select that option as well. (The sub-menu in Panasonic TVs lists two options, Size One and Size Two; Size Two is the one you’ll want.)

With the above modes selected, your HDTV will now show the entire high-definition image without cropping any pixels. (Pixel cropping is also known as “overscan,” though TVs technically no longer “scan.”). Aspect Ratio controls on some sets might be grayed-out if the set’s picture mode is set to Vivid or Sports (see below for more information). Also, broadcasters may place data (usually visible as white dots or dashes) at the top of the image. This is normal and not a malfunction of the cable/satellite box or your HDTV.

Many LED LCD TVs with a 120 Hz, 240 Hz refresh rate can reduce blur in programs with fast motion—football, for example—via a special processing mode. Different makers give these modes different names such as Motion Plus, Motion Flow, etc. Go to the picture setup menu and turn this on to get crisper motion when watching sports. Such modes only apply to LCD and OLED models, however. Plasma TVs can deliver a blur-free picture without additional processing.

Picture Modes

Make a point of avoiding your TV’s following preset picture modes: “Sports”, “Vivid,” “Dynamic” and “Game.” That may sound counter intuitive, but such presets are generally meant to produce a bright image in a store rather than a high-quality picture at home. Furthermore, “Game” automatically disengages and locks out motion blur-reduction processing. Instead, use modes such as “Movie” or “Custom” to adjust your TV’s picture controls, ideally using a test disc like  Disney WOW: World of Wonder on Blu-ray  or the THX app for Android/iOS.

Note: This article is an updated version of a previous HD Guru post.


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