It has been widely reported that Fox announced plans to broadcast the college football BCS championship game in 3D at select movie theaters in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. The plans were announced this week by Fox Sports CEO David Hill at the 3-D Entertainment Summit.
Perhaps more important were the comments made by Hill along with the announcement. He complained about how the networks had to bear the cost of converting to HD, for which they did not receive “a penny more” from the advertisers or television manufacturers. He said that he does not intend to let the rest of the industry take a free ride on the adoption of 3D, and that they’ll have to share in the costs if it is going to happen.
Forgive me, but it seems to me that Hill just doesn’t get it. I wasn’t involved then, but did the TV manufacturers help pay the networks to add support for color, or for stereo sound? I expect not. If Hill hasn’t noticed, many of the TV manufacturers are selling their products at or below cost. Just where does he think that the money will come from for them to chip in on the adoption of 3D technology. And both Panasonic and Samsung have been selling 3D-capable rear projection sets for years; sales have hardly set any records at this point, so I don’t see a pot of gold sitting there to share with Fox.
And what if the advertisers aren’t paying a penny more for HD content? Whose fault is that? It’s not the advertisers, that’s for sure. They pay what they have to in order to reach their target market. If HD is doing a better job than standard definition programming at delivering the desired audience, it will be worth more to the advertisers. I expect that the problem is that the video entertainment market is getting much more diluted, so there are fewer advertiser dollars available per show on average. Is this hard on the networks and content producers? Sure. But unless the new technology is going to help those other groups make more money, don’t expect them to help pay for it.
Networks are struggling to maintain their audiences, and they will have to do more to attract and retain viewers. 3D broadcasts may be part of that mix. But the cold truth is that if 3D is what it takes to remain competitive, the networks may have to figure out a different business model that will help them pay for it.