Amazon Prime Video adds HDR to Thursday Night Football — but there's a catch

 Pictured (L-R): Tony Gonzalez, Charissa Thompson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Whitworth, Richard Sherman
Pictured (L-R): Tony Gonzalez, Charissa Thompson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andrew Whitworth, Richard Sherman

NFL live streams are in full effect and Week 1 just wrapped up. While this past week you watched football on FOX, CBS, NBC or ESPN — or if you’re like me, you spent the weekend watching NFL Sunday Ticket — Week 2 adds Prime Video into the mix.

This season, every remaining Thursday Night Football game will be found exclusively on Amazon’s streaming platform. That’s not so bad if you already have an Amazon Prime subscription since Prime Video is included with Prime, but the rest of us may be scrambling to get a Prime Video subscription in time for kickoff on Thursday Night.

It’s not all bad news though. While you now need to add another streaming service to get a full slate of NFL games, Amazon is giving you a serious upgrade for your money. In a blog post, Amazon announced that Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football coverage will now come in native HDR. This is a new addition this season and in terms of picture quality, it’s a serious upgrade. In fact, on most TVs, Thursday Night Football may have the best picture quality of any NFL broadcast thanks to this boost.

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What is HDR and why does it improve your TV?

HDR, or high dynamic range, is a popular buzzword in display technology and photography. But in essence, HDR uses a picture’s pixels to produce higher-quality contrast and color than in a standard dynamic range (SDR) picture. This gives you a more realistic image on your TV screen when watching TV shows, movies, or in this case, sports.

There are four common HDR formats: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HLG. HDR 10 and HLG are both freely available and open HDR standards. However, it’s unlikely that Amazon would use HLG, as this is designed for over-the-air broadcasts.

HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, however, are proprietary. HDR10+ is developed by Samsung but is available on a variety of TVs. It improves HDR10 by supporting higher brightness (up to 4,000 nits) and uses dynamic metadata rather than the fixed metadata used in HDR10. That means it can adjust color and brightness information scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame.

Dolby Vision, developed by Dolby and also available on a range of TVs, also uses dynamic metadata. However, it can sometimes be preferred by directors and editors since the metadata can be set to match their intent rather than improve existing SDR footage.

Will my TV have access to this upgrade?

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There is a potential catch with this upgrade to Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football broadcast. First, your TV needs to support HDR formats for this upgrade to be visible. If you have one of the best TVs, or really any 4K TV, your TV most likely supports some HDR formats, but you need to check your specific TV to be sure.

But unfortunately, we don’t know which HDR format Amazon is using. As previously mentioned, not all four are always supported by your TV, a problem that affects even flagship TVs. Often, TVs will have HDR10 and HLG, along with only HDR10+ or Dolby Vision — not both. So, for example, if Amazon is using Dolby Vision and you have a newer Samsung TV, you might miss out on this HDR upgrade.

My guess is that Amazon will use HDR10 because I think if they were using a proprietary HDR format, Samsung or Dolby would want that publicized in the announcement. Additionally, while HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are superior, HDR10 is much more widely available. It would be an odd decision to limit the number of viewers that can experience this upgrade given the positive buzz Amazon wants for the announcement. Hopefully, I’m right, and we can all enjoy some Thursday Night Football in HDR this week.

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