SBD/January 5, 2011/Media

ESPN Expanding Its 3D Network To Full Programming Next Month

ESPN 3D scheduled to air just two live events in February, both NBA games

ESPN is expanding its 3D TV channel to full 24-hour, seven-day per week programming beginning Feb. 14. When live events are not shown on the channel, ESPN 3D will air replays of prior events. ESPN 3D began last June 11 with the FIFA World Cup from South Africa, and to date has shown nearly 60 events in the enhanced format, including its first NBA 3D TV game last month. ESPN first announced plans for the 3D TV channel at last year's Int'l Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and is using the high-profile forum again to trumpet the expansion, even as 3D TV remains dogged by disappointing sales and widespread skepticism (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Todd Spangler notes "very little of the programming on ESPN 3D will be live." The net next month "has currently scheduled live coverage of just two events: the Feb. 11 Lakers-Knicks meeting and a Feb. 25 Thunder-Magic matchup." Meanwhile, ESPN 3D on Friday will host a special edition of "College Football Live" at CES with Rece Davis, Lou Holtz and Mark May. Spangler notes Comcast and DirecTV "currently do not charge HD customers extra to receive ESPN 3D," while Time Warner Cable and AT&T U-verse TV "both include ESPN 3D as part of a premium 3D programming tier for $10 per month extra" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 1/5).

CIRCUIT CITY: In N.Y., Brian Stelter writes ESPN's "embrace of CES attests to the importance of the show." ESPN VP/Strategic Business Planning & Development Bryan Burns, who is leading the network's 3D push, said, "You have to know what the screens are today, and what the screens are going to be in the future, and where you do that is CES." Analysts believe that "this year’s show is in some ways an amplification of last year’s trends." There is "talk, like last year, about 3-D TV; about connected TVs, also sometimes called 'smart TVs,' which pledge to pair the Internet and traditional TV viewing; about cloud computing; and about apps on screens of all sizes." But more than "anything else, there is talk about tablet computers." Also, 3D supporters "will be trying to renew interest in expensive 3-D sets," sales of which have "been sluggish at best" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/5).

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