Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ESPN and Discovery TV’s planning to push 3-D viewing

Two major cable networks, ESPN and Discovery planning to push 3-D viewing.
ESPN and Discovery, said yesterday that they plan to start beaming 3-D entertainment into peoples’ homes for the first time.
Riding what could be one of the next big waves in consumer electronics, ESPN said it will have a 3-D channel for broadcasting live sports events in time for the June 11 FIFA World Cup soccer match. The channel will not operate 24 hours a day but plans at least 85 live events in its first year.

Separately, Discovery Communications Inc., which owns Discovery, TLC, and other cable channels, said it will partner with Imax Corp. and Sony Corp. to bring out its own full-time 3-D network in 2011.

It is yet to be seen whether 3-D can make inroads in the home. For viewers, it will probably mean buying new TV sets and wearing 3-D glasses.

But enthusiasm for the new technology has been building across the industry, with electronics makers, cable and satellite companies, and content providers betting they can get consumers to shell out money for new TVs and channels. They hope 3-D blockbusters such as James Cameron’s “Avatar,’’ still strong in its third week in theaters, can get enough people excited about characters popping off the screen.

Last year, 3-D films took in more than $1 billion at box offices worldwide. And major electronics makers such as Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. are planning to market 3-D-capable TVs this year.

“The trouble is going to be how do you take the enthusiasm about what’s happening in movie theaters and bring it into the home,’’ said Greg Ireland, an analyst with the market research firm IDC.

Aside from getting people to wear funny-looking glasses in their living rooms, Ireland said, the big challenge will be providing enough 3-D material to justify consumers’ buying new sets.

Another hurdle could be the inevitable wrangling over the fees that cable networks such as Discovery charge the cable TV and satellite operators that pipe their shows into peoples’ homes. Such disputes have already led Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. to pull its HGTV and the Food Network from Cablevision Systems Corp. lineups.

Neither ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co., nor Discovery had any deals with cable or satellite operators lined up.