Masters 3DTV Coverage Exclusive to Cable

Telco and satellite TV subs will remain in the gallery when Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and other big MSOs tee up 3D coverage of the Masters next month UPDATED 3/22 5:00 PM

March 16, 2010

4 Min Read
Masters 3DTV Coverage Exclusive to Cable

Under a distribution deal Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) struck with Augusta National Golf Club , no DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS TV, or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) U-verse TV subscribers will be able to view The Masters in 3D on their home TVs. (See Masters Going 3D.)

Comcast will distribute a feed of a 3D production from the Masters next month through its Colorado-based Comcast Media Center (CMC) facility to its cable systems as well as those operated by several other major MSOs. So far, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Bright House Networks plan to offer the 3D golf programming from Augusta to their subscribers.

UPDATE: A Bright House official confirmed that the MSO will not be carrying the Masters in 3D this year. It typically works with Time Warner Cable on such rollouts, but has opted instead to see how the first 3DTV "viewing room" goes for TWC, and then decide how Bright House might proceed with 3DTV in the future.

While only a small number of early adopters that have bought new 3D televisions from Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), and other manufacturers will actually be able to view the programming in 3D using stereoscopic glasses, the 3D Masters will allow Comcast and the other major cable MSOs to tout their technological prowess as an advantage over DirecTV and other rivals.

Comcast isn't the first pay TV provider to invest in exclusive 3D programming -- DirecTV plans to launch a 24-hour 3DTV network, a pay-per-view 3D channel, and a video-on-demand 3D channel exclusively to its subscribers in June. (See DirecTV Won't Give Cable Access to 3D Nets.)

Augusta National Golf Club contracted ESPN to produce a dedicated 3D feed from The Masters, using about 10 3D cameras, which will be focused mostly on the back nine holes at Augusta.

While ESPN and CBS usually feature many close-up shots during golf broadcasts, the 3D production will feature more angles from the players' perspective, including scenic shots that show the contours of the course. The 3D images will also be more immersive, including shots from the gallery's perspective and images that capture the water hazards, and what a golf ball looks like in 3D when a golfer blasts it out of a sand trap.

Comcast has offered 3D programming to its subscribers previously, using the more traditional analglyphic process, which relies on old-school red and green glasses. In 2008, it began offering 3D movies and events, including My Bloody Valentine, Hannah Montana: The Movie, and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. (See Comcast Tries On 3D VoD .)

While any viewer can watch anaglyphic content with 3D glasses, The Masters 3D fare can only be viewed on new 3D-capable television sets. A new network that ESPN plans to launch in June, and a 3D network that Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), Sony and IMAX Corp. plan to launch in 2011, will also only be able to be viewed on this new class of 3D sets. (See ESPN Jumps Into the 3DTV Game and Discovery Prez: New 3D Net Will Need 6MHz .)

Comcast plans to dedicate a 6MHz channel on each of its cable systems to carry the 3D feed from Augusta. Subscribers on Comcast and other cable systems offering the 3D feed from Augusta will also need a high-definition set-top box connected via an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable to a 3DTV in order to view the programming in the advanced format. [Ed note: The dedicated 3D channel will show about two hours of live footage per day, according to the Comcast blog.]

The Masters, considered by many golfers the most prestigious championship in the sport, will be in an even bigger spotlight this year. Top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods announced today that he will return to professional golf at The Masters, five months after crashing a Cadillac Escalade outside of his Florida home, and later revealing that he had been unfaithful to his wife.

In addition to the 3D feed being distributed by several cable MSOs, Sony plans to install 3DTVs in hospitality tents and other locations throughout the golf course to showcase the technology. Sony is also teaming up with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) to distribute The Masters in 3D via steaming video on the Web to 3D capable computers.

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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