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



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