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SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Events and Attractions
‘Smart’ talk still keeps some focus on 3-D TV
Published January 16, 2012, Page 5
So while “smart” was the constant marketing buzzword of CES this year, hardware manufacturers and content programmers spent the week trying to convey the idea that 3-D TV is still a, well, smart idea for consumers.
But a series of early hiccups has fueled a widespread notion that 3-D TV is simply a fad, soon on its way out. Among the mistakes were the unpopular rollout of expensive and bulky active-shutter glasses and distribution of poorly produced, headache-inducing 3-D programming.
Manufacturers and networks spent last week trying to undo the damage and outline a more-integrated marketing message in which 3-D TV is simply one facet of an overall modern home-entertainment experience. Companies such as LG, Panasonic, Sony and Samsung each unveiled TV sets with much-higher-quality 3-D resolution than before and that, in many instances, rely on passive-shutter glasses that are far cheaper, lighter and more fashionable than their predecessors.
|ESPN used the event to stage its first studio show produced in the 3-D format.
“Frankly, I was much more discouraged about four years into the HD conversion, where progress had sort of stalled there for a while, than I am now at this stage of the 3-D development,” said Bryan Burns, ESPN vice president of strategic business planning and development. “We’ve seen this story play out before, and the fact remains that we’re tracking ahead with 3-D [compared to] where we were at a comparable point for HD.”
Beyond “smart,” the other oft-repeated talking point at this year’s CES was a “chicken-and-egg scenario” between 3-D TV manufacturers and programmers. Networks in many instances are waiting for a higher installed base of sets before pushing the envelope on 3-D programming — but manufacturers and retailers can’t sell sets without consumers having content to watch on those sets.
Breaking that cycle will rest significantly on bringing production costs down. 3-D TV shows to date have been prohibitively expensive to make, generally at least twice the cost of the same material in 2-D. But networks, including ESPN, more recently have pursued an integrated “5-D” production model in which a 2-D feed is extracted out of the 3-D feed. The blended model removes the need for separate 2-D and 3-D production trucks and crews.
“We’re now in a phase where we’re concentrating more on the economics,” said Vince Pace, co-chairman of the Cameron Pace Group, which produced the hit film “Avatar” and has worked with several sports entities. “We’re going to get the cost of 3-D production down to the cost of 2-D production. It’s natural that we will progress to a state where the economics will scale up to fill this black hole of content that exists.”
The other task will be to recalibrate consumer expectations. Just as 3-D TV was starting to become widely available, “Avatar” was released to theaters. The hit film took more than four years to make, but fans have expected even live 3-D TV programming to look as good as the film content. Programmers also must find a way to blend the social nature of watching sports with the more immersive nature of 3-D viewing.
“We need to get to the point where you’re not watching something just because it’s 3-D, but you’re watching because it’s a fantastic show and it happens to be in 3-D,” said Tom Cosgrove, president and chief executive of 3net, a joint venture between Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX.