CES 2010: 3D Broadcasts on the Way

Last summer, European satellite service BSkyB made headlines by announcing plans for an all-3D HDTV channel to begin broadcasting this year. Many people — including me — thought that this is probably premature due to the limited amount of 3D content available. Like the early days of HDTV broadcasts, you were likely to see the same content repeated over and over.

Now television services on this side of the pond are also announcing 3D channels. Disney’s ESPN has announced that it will launch ESPN 3D this summer. DirecTV will also have three 3D HDTV channels by June: two linear channels and a third with video-on-demand (VOD) content. EPSN plans to showcase the FIFA World Cup soccer games, while DirecTV will have the MLB All-Star baseball game. And if that’s not enough, Sony, the Discovery Channel, and IMAX are partnering to produce a 3D HDT channel due to launch in 2011.

Are these efforts too early? Will there be sufficient content to support these channels? It doesn’t seem so. Hollywood has been producing about 15 movies a year in 3D, which is only about 30 hours. That’s barely enough to fill a single week’s prime time schedule. But clearly these groups want to stake a claim to part of the 3D content distribution territory, even if that means stretching a meager supply of content. It’s also possible that they have some ideas on how to generate a larger store of 3D content quickly. It will be interesting to see how it develops.