SBD/Issue 181/Sports Media

ESPN Exec Says 3D Offers Opportunity To Better Serve Sports Fans


Commercial 3D TV "will officially launch in the U.S. in less than two weeks, when the ESPN 3D channel begins its coverage of the FIFA World Cup on June 11," and ESPN VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches said that 3D "represents an opportunity to better serve the sports fan, just like HD back in 2003," according to Glen Dickson of BROADCASTING & CABLE. ESPN has been "driving much of 3D's development on the production side over the past two years, producing a series of test broadcasts with 3D specialist PACE and creating a dedicated lab in Orlando." Bratches: "It seems to be a technology that's on the move, and it's an opportunity to serve our core constituency." ESPN 3D "will reach more than 40 million homes" upon its launch with carriage on DirecTV and Comcast already lined up, putting the channel "well ahead of ESPN's first HD channel, which initially secured carriage with a handful of small cable operators." Bratches said that consumer awareness of 3D is "probably better than it was for HD at a similar point in that technology's life cycle, and predicted that by 2019, 3D penetration will still lag HD but will be somewhat ahead of DVR penetration." Meanwhile, Bratches said running 3D spots on ESPN 3D is "preaching to the converted." He contends that the "much larger advertising opportunity" for ESPN 3D is in "running commercials for 3D sets on its 2D networks, which the sports giant is already doing" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 5/31 issue). Bratches noted that "being the first mass 3DTV programmer is important to the ESPN brand and to helping advertisers -- particularly TV equipment makers like ESPN 3D partner Sony -- drive business opportunities." When asked if ESPN has any new affiliates to announce, Bratches said, "We're continuing to move on that front" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 5/31 issue).

MAJOR SELLING POINT: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand notes "will stream every World Cup match live online," and ESPN is "rolling out the biggest marketing push ever behind the five-year-old broadband service to reach both hard-core soccer fans ... and more casual fans interested in watching big events." is "being pushed by ESPN executives," who are "convinced that added attention from the World Cup will bring it more into the mainstream." ESPN Digital Media Senior VP & GM John Kosner: "The World Cup is going to be a breakthrough event for us. We're going to hit ESPN3 very hard there." Ourand notes the "expectations for are gaudy," as ESPN officials "aren't shy about predicting record traffic for the site -- well into the millions of viewers." Those expected online crowds "helped ESPN sell a presenting sponsorship for's World Cup coverage to EA Sports' '2010 FIFA World Cup' game." ESPN officials "see the World Cup as a pivotal point in the growth" of the site, as the tournament's schedule appeals "directly to the service's strengths," with games occurring in the middle of the workday. The net believes's viewership "will hit record numbers from office workers that don’t have access to televisions" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/31 issue).

Italy, South Korea Theaters To Air
World Cup Games In 3D

3D ON THE BIG SCREEN: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eric Lyman reports this year's World Cup "will be the first in Italy to be available in 3D, with selected games screening on 20 movie screens that are part of the network run by the company Space Cinema." Around a dozen "key matches starting in the final days of the second round" will air, including all games "from that point and onward featuring Italy." The June 24 Italy-Slovakia game will be the first to air (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/3). Meanwhile, movie theaters in South Korea will air the country's World Cup matches "live in 3D to lure fans away from their televisions at home." Major chains like CGV, Lotte Cinema and MegaBox have "signed deals with SBS, the Seoul-based broadcaster that has the exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament in Korea" (AFP, 6/2).

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