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Comcast, Time Warner, ESPN & Motorola Talk 3D TV

Picture above: William Helms, Time Warner Cable; Bryan Burns, ESPN; Bob Wilson, Motorola; Gary Traver Comcast Media Center

Motorola pulled off a spectacular, if cozy, roundtable event this afternoon on the topic of 3D TV. In the room were execs from Comcast Media Center, Time Warner Cable, and ESPN. Coming on the heels of Comcast’s announcement this morning that it would distribute ESPN’s 3D channel next month, the discussion was both direct and engaging.

To start, it’s clear that 3D TV is moving a lot faster than even the industry folks expected. Motorola’s Bob Wilson mentioned that he’s been working on 3D in some capacity for about ten years, but the real work only began about three years ago. In contrast, HDTV took close to 20 years to become a reality. And while no one thinks 3D is going to invade consumer homes overnight, there is a sense that event-based viewing will drive adoption faster than many are predicting. In the next three years, there are likely to be between 30 and 50 million 3D TVs sold. That’s a market worth addressing.

Outside of the technical components involved in delivering 3D TV, there was also a fascinating discussion at the roundtable about how 3D changes television production. For example, HD sports broadcasts use a lot of tight shots and quick cuts. That doesn’t work in 3D. In fact, if you watched The Masters last month, you may have noticed that there were no close-up shots following the ball. Instead, the cameramen pulled their shots out until the ball got close to landing. That’s a radically different approach to sports broadcasting.

On ESPN’s side, I also learned that they have to have an entirely separate production crew for every 3D event. Theoretically it would be possible to take 2D images and 3D images out of the same video stream, but practically it doesn’t work well. ESPN more than doubles its costs when it broadcasts an event in 3D. Good thing for those distribution deals.

So far, Comcast is the only cable operator that has signed a deal with ESPN for its 3D channel, but you can expect that to change. The undercurrents at the table strongly suggested that further deals are only a matter of time. If they get done by July, ESPN will still have about 65 3D events for viewers to enjoy before the end of the year. Coming to a location near you?

For more info on 3D, check out the Q&A published here a few weeks ago with Comcast’s Mark Hess. That 3D channel I asked about came through a lot sooner than I expected.

9 Responses

  1. Does Verizon/FiOS have a presence at the cable show?

  2. Not a public presence, but there are a few Verizon folks around.

  3. […] I’ll be catching up on my Cable Show notes for several days, so in the meantime here’s another Motorola video from the show floor. If you scan to about the 2:15 mark, you’ll find several clips of Motorola’s Bob Wilson and Comcast’s Gary Traver talking 3D. The video was shot just after Wednesday’s 3D roundtable. […]

  4. […] of 3D Events for the Year Posted on May 31, 2010 by Mari Silbey Earlier this month in a conversation at The Cable Show, Bryan Berns of ESPN suggested that the network’s new 3D channel would showcase 65 events in […]

  5. […] one day before the start of the World Cup, and the launch of ESPN’s 3D television channel, I finally got around to looking for locations where I might get in on some of the 3D sports […]

  6. […] half of 2010. Here on the blog we’ve been tracking the FCC’s broadband proposals, the explosion of 3D, massive growth in VOD content libraries, the return of switched digital video, and several […]

  7. […] closely at what makes certain 3D films successful, and learn how to replicate that success for film and television in the […]

  8. I guess that it would make sense to start to think about the next big thing, but I just don’t see why try too push it so much when there are so little customers that have compatible equipment. I am happy with the HD free for life programming that I get from DISH Network. I actually work at DISH, and they are the only provider I know of that offers all customers HD free for life. Majority of customers have HD, why not put more effort into what most people are into now, especially in today’s economy. There are few that would jump to buy a 3D TV just because they can watch a couple movies free.

  9. hi there i got my 32 inch 3d sony bravia tv ready too consume the 3d content soo please release a good enough 3d contenct too make good use of my 3d tv technolgy

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