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ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

NEW ORLEANS -- TelcoTV 2011 -- The 3-D video market has hit a few bumps in the road early on, but ESPN has no regrets about its decision to launch a network dedicated to the eye-popping format, said ESPN VP of Strategic Business Planning and Development Bryan Burns.

You can watch the entire keynote right here:

Burns recalled ESPN's track record with another new video technology it latched onto early on, high-definition TV. He noted that some doubted ESPN's decision to go headlong into HD in 2002, when hardly anyone owned an HD set. Today, roughly 70 percent of U.S. TV homes own at least one hi-def set. Additionally, 51 million homes now have access to ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD, and the total day audience of ESPN hi-def nets has doubled over the last two years.

"We love to go first when technology allows us to serve sports fans," Burns said, confident that the adoption pattern will repeat itself with 3DTV. PricewaterhouseCoopers International , for example, forecasts that 3-D will be in 20 percent of U.S. homes by 2015.

He thinks the number of homes with 3-D-capable TVs will increase faster than HD did, noting that the cost differential between an HD set and an HD set with 3-D is "modest" -- a couple of hundred of dollars and dropping. He also likes the fact that HD set-tops already in the field can display ESPN 3D's signal without any additional equipment from the service provider.

"We do this because we love to lead," Burns said of ESPN's aggression with 3-D. "New technology seeks out sports, and with 3D it's happening again."

ESPN announced its 3-D launch plans in January 2010 and got the network off the ground about six months later with its coverage of the World Cup. It will broadcast its 164th live 3DTV telecast on Thursday when Virginia and Miami toss around the pigskin. (See ESPN Jumps Into the 3DTV Game and ESPN Sets 3D Network Launch.)

But he acknowledges that 3DTV's momentum has hit some rough patches. Providers such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) have already questioned the current value of the service, but some of those challenges are occurring at the consumer point of purchase. (See AT&T Dumps ESPN 3D.)

During a recent visit to a consumer electronics store, Burns was thrilled to see that more than 20 models on the floor were 3-D-capable, but was discouraged that only one of three 3DTV demos actually worked, obviously a big issue for a "seeing is believing" technology.

And 3-D is just one piece of the "real digital transition" going on with television, Burns added. The other is TV Everywhere. ESPN is also hitting that head-on with its Watch ESPN app for PCs, mobile phones and tablets. (See ESPN Pipes Live TV to Apple Devices .)

That authenticated approach, Burns added, "reinforces the power of the TV subscription."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:50:30 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

Is there a danger here in losing focus? At one end of the spectrum, the push is on to deliver video to a wide array mobile devices and notepads. At the other end, we have big-screen 3DTV. All for the same basic content. Trying to be all things to all people is going to be costly.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:50:30 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

I suppose the most expensive cable channel of the lot can afford to take some risks that others can't, particularly in the early portion of new games like TV Everywhere and 3DTV.  As 3DTV goes... i'm still on the fence. I've seen it in action, and it's not bad. But it's not enough for me to go out and buy a new set for that purpose, like it was with HD. However, the next time i'm in the market for a big screen, i will probably go for one that's 3D-capable. Jeff

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 4:50:29 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

We've been through these act first, think later stampedes in the media business before. I agree that ESPN can afford to dabble and take a few pioneering arrows. I just wonder what margins will be like when you have to deliver your content in a dozen or more different formats.

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 4:50:28 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

Of all the people I know, there is one that enjoys watching entertainment in 3D vs 2D in its current iteration. 

Saying x% of TVs are 3D capable does not mean that the owners desire 3D content.  Many times there is not a 2D option of the same design. 

These marketing numbers remind me of Vista usage numbers.  What was the first thing everyone did with a machine they received having Vista pre-installed?  Wipe the drive and install XP of course -they were even willing to pay to do so.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:50:27 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

"What was the first thing everyone did with a machine they received having Vista pre-installed?"

Not true...I ran Vista with UAC turned to the max for several years.




Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:50:26 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

My personal laptop still runs Vista.. .but not because i like it. I've just been too lazy to change out the OS. So not the first thing I did, but I'll get around to it. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:50:24 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

To the 3D point, I'd agree that many people aren't buying new TVs just for the 3D component... they're in the market for a new TV and might pay that premium for the 3D piece, something i might consider.  At some point in the next couple of years I'd be surprised if 3D support became a standard feature in most new TVs in the way that HD is now.  That will seed the market whether the market is really demanding it.  JB

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 4:50:24 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

OK, OK I should have said everyone I know.........I guess I hang with a bunch of geeks that are known to squeeze every bit of performance out of their gear that they can!

That being said I assume that your responses to my Vista comment and lack of comment to the 3D portion means that your observations are similar.

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:50:22 PM
re: ESPN: No Regrets About 3DTV Tilt

Yes, CE manufacturers will seek to foist 3DTV upon you by baking it into more of their large display HDTVs, along with broadband conectivity too (smartTV). Then they can say that consumers are buying 3DTVs, but how many consumers will actually be using the feature? It can be a cool effect for certain programming, but it makes me queasy. ESPN is known to be working hard to maximize the 3DTV effect with sports -- and minimize the potential that it will make you barf!   

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