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ESPN Exits the Third DimensionESPN Exits the Third Dimension

Sports programmer plans to pull plug on pricey 3D network by year's end

Mari Silbey

June 14, 2013

2 Min Read
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

About the Author(s)

Mari Silbey

Senior Editor, Cable/Video

Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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