ESPN and Discovery launching 3-D TV networks

Tue Jan 5, 2010 11:21pm EST
 
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By Sue Zeidler and Ben Klayman

LOS ANGELES/CHICAGO (Reuters) - ESPN and Discovery Communications Inc both unveiled plans on Tuesday to launch 3-D television networks, reflecting a growing momentum in the entertainment industry to usher 3-D into the home.

Walt Disney Co's ESPN will roll out its 3-D network in June and will air a minimum of 85 live sporting events during its first year. ESPN's first broadcast will be a World Cup soccer match between South Africa and Mexico.

Separately, Discovery said it has joined ranks with Sony Corp and IMAX Corp to launch a dedicated 3-D network in the United States beginning in 2011. The network will feature natural history, space, exploration, and adventure shows along with films and children's programing from all three partners. Third parties may also provide entertainment.

Following the blockbuster success of 3-D epic "Avatar," many believe 3-D is poised to take over the home market and many 3-D technologies will be on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

"This will be a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3-D television sets and afford opportunities for our affiliates to create value through new product offerings, and our advertisers, who want fresh sponsorship opportunities," Sean Bratches, ESPN's executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.

A lack of 3-D programing, in particular for sports, has been one of the key barriers to adoption of 3-D TV, analysts have said. Having to wear special glasses is another.

"The bottleneck has been content. What you are seeing is a feeding frenzy suddenly emerging for in-home 3-D, which is a step in the right direction," said Piper Jaffray analyst James Marsh.

But he noted that while theatrical 3-D success provides a beachhead for in-home solutions, the transition to widespread in-home 3-D adoption may prove more complicated due to challenges in convincing viewers it can be as enjoyable as inside the cinema.   Continued...