Just when you thought you had it all figured out -- with an expensive HDTV and all the hottest sound components -- ESPN has announced that it is raising the technology bar on watching sports at home.
The giant sports broadcaster will begin showing games in 3D -- starting with the World Cup in June on a new network, aptly named ESPN 3D. It would mark the industry's first TV network in 3D, bringing with it the challenges and accolades of innovation.
"This will be a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3D 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, according to Reuters.
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ESPN said it will air a minimum of 85 live games during the first year, including 25 matches from this summer's World Cup, the Summer X Games, NBA games and college football and basketball games, USA Today reported. The first 3D broadcast will be the June 11th World Cup match between South Africa and Mexico.
But before you can witness a soccer ball virtually careening into your living room, viewers must have an expensive 3D-capable tv and sport 3D glasses or headgear. You may also need a new box to get 3D.
"We're going to assess the viability of this as we did with all our businesses," Bratches told USA Today, seemingly recognizing the likely slow migration by viewers to such new technology. The leap forward will also cost ESPN more money with a special production crew and different announcers needed in addition to a regular telecast.
But industry experts sounded an optimistic tone about ESPN's announcement, saying it will drive the 3D industry forward. "This is a turning point for 3D," said Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro, who also said 3D TV is where HDTV was six years ago.
Wired Magazine wasn't as kind. Though it expressed some giddiness over the prospect of 3DTV in the home, it also voiced some doubt. "It is hard at this juncture to see home 3D as anything but a niche service. As a mass medium it would be practical only if it can be incorporated relatively easily into an existing setup," writer John C. Abell wrote. "Unlike the switchover to HDTV, which was an opportunity to upgrade everything, 3DTV will have to succeed or fail on the merits."
On Tuesday, Discovery Communications also announced they will launch a 3D channel in 2011 in a joint venture with Imax and Sony, the NY Times reported. It is expected to be a 24-hour channel -- unlike ESPN which will only broadcast live sports events.