ESPN Exits the Third Dimension

Just three years after it started, ESPN's 3D TV experiment is coming to an end. Citing a "lack of demand from a majority of consumers," the sports network is discontinuing 3D production at the end of the year.

3D TV was a major focus of attention at the 2010 Cable Show. Comcast Corp. announced it would carry ESPN's 3D channel, and vendor booths were full of demos showing off set-top and encoder upgrades designed for 3D video streams. (See Comcast's 3D Adventure.)

In the hype period that followed that summer, ESPN quickly signed up DirecTV, Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. FiOS TV and other major TV providers as distributors, giving the 3D network a potential reach of 75 million homes.

Fast forward to this year's Cable Show, where 3D TV was virtually non-existent. Some companies touted advances in 4K Ultra HD video, but even those announcements and demos were muted. Comcast, for example, showed off 4K video delivery over its HFC network, but also noted in a blog post that it's waiting "to see just how rapidly 4K Ultra HD technology will progress."

ESPN, meanwhile, will save a good chunk of change by turning off its 3D production. Back in 2010, the network said that it more than doubled its production costs when broadcasting an event in 3D.

The sports programmer can now turn its substantial resources toward more online video initiatives. At a Cable Show panel earlier this week, ESPN Vice President Damon Phillips showed off a new live toolbar for the WatchESPN app. That feature will hit consumer iPads this summer.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

craigleddy 6/18/2013 | 8:39:52 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension Yea, even the glasses-free 3D has a ways to go. But how about Ultra HD? It's so frickin' clear that video almost looks 3D. I know many industry players don't want to invest in Ultra HD either, but at least in the demos I've seen the pictures sure are astounding.
ethertype 6/17/2013 | 11:10:21 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension The problem continues to be that "3D" means either "sit very still, in one specific place, and watch alone" or "wear silly glasses until your head hurts". Either way, it's a worse experience than current HD for most users. Given that, I honestly can't understand why anyone would invest in current 3D technology. Call me when there's a fundamental technical breakthrough that enables 3D viewing without such compromises.
craigleddy 6/17/2013 | 4:03:50 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension At least now I won't get seasick while watching the NHL playoffs.
mendyk 6/17/2013 | 2:50:28 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension Given that most of the content on all 73 ESPN channels is now either talking heads or archive material, keeping things 2D is the right move.
brookseven 6/14/2013 | 4:39:23 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension Craig,

If all new products, plans or companies worked then it would be a strange world indeed. I have heard a number of 90% of all new ventures fail in the first 5 years. So, trying something is never dumb.

To me (although I never thought 3D TV was a good idea right now), they did a good job of trying to build a proof of concept and found out that it didn't work. They didn't do 20 channels, they did 1. Seems like a relatively mild cost to try out and I am sure they learned a lot.

Craig Matsumoto 6/14/2013 | 4:00:08 PM
re: ESPN Exits the Third Dimension Oddly, I don't feel compelled to make fun of ESPN for this. It was dumb, but my idea of "dumb" doesn't always match the consumer market's -- someone had to try this out.

I guess I'm giving them credit for having guts enough to *prove* the idea was dumb. Does that make sense?
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