3DTV: It Starts with Sports

With some consumers willing to spend hundreds of dollars per seat to attend some sporting events, it should come as little surprise that live 3DTV programming is going to begin with sports coverage. The press is still writing pages about the first 3D-capable sets from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic — many of which have not shipped yet — and already we’re hearing about efforts to broadcast 3D programming.

For example, Comcast will provide free 3D coverage of the Masters golf tournament. The cable company plans to show two hours on each of the first five days.

CBS has announced 3D coverage of the late rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. While this won’t be broadcast to TVs, it will be shown in about 100 movie theaters across the nation.

Both of these initiatives are important. They have an aura of exclusivity that may lead some sports fans to think that they’re missing something by not having 3D. So this could help increase the early “pull” demand on the part of consumers for 3D-capable sets. In addition, this will let the producers of sporting event programming start to climb the learning curve for real-time live 3D coverage of sports. Just as in the early days of HDTV, the new format requires new hardware and all the production facilities required to process and deliver the content. These are not trivial challenges, but as we’ve seen with HD, once they are ironed out we can expect to see the use of 3D stereoscopic imaging spread rapidly through other types of content, right down to the local TV newsroom.