3D Entertainment Summit Confirms Sports as Leading Catalyst for Accelerated 3D Acceptance

Mel Lambert, principal of Content-Creators.com, a Los Angeles-based consulting service, reports from the 3D Entertainment Summit, presented in association with Variety at Universal City, CA, Sept. 15-16.

“The June launch of ESPN 3D was the turning point for 3D in the home,” said ESPN VP of Business Strategy and Development Bryan Burns during the third-annual 3D Entertainment Summit. “It is obvious that we cannot avoid 3D. By 2017, over 50% of consumers will own a 3D TV, with substantial 3D services.”

He made his prediction during the session titled Turning the Corner From SD to HD to 3D, presented by Digital Entertainment Group as part of the overarching Home 3D — Solutions & Strategies theme. “Our recent agreement with carriers AT&T U-verse, Comcast, and DirecTV means that ESPN can be accessed by 45 million subscribers; with the addition of Time Warner Cable, that number has reached 60 million.”

Acknowledging that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to wide-scale acceptance of 3D is consumer education on what the format can offer, Burns told the gathered crowd of 600+ attendees about National 3D Demo Days held last weekend in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association. “3D is all about the experience. We provided continual 3D programming to a number of retail locations, which allowed sales staff to showcase the latest in 3DTV.”

ESPN 3D offered a live telecast of the Ohio State-Miami game, in addition to coverage from the 2010 FIFA World Cup and X Games 16. “It was a great step forward for the rollout of 3D,” Burns said, noting that research reveals that 75% of consumers have never experienced 3D content on TV.

Another driving force for consumer 3D remains Blu-ray, particularly given the imminent release of Sony’s PlayStation 3 software upgrade. “The ability for PS3 to now play Blu-ray 3D media will dramatically increase the 3D user base,” said Andy Parsons, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Association U.S. Promotions Committee, during the Home 3D: Blu-ray 3D Experience session.

Gabrielle Chamberlin, SVP of product management at Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, provided details of upcoming Blu-ray 3D releases, including Alice in Wonderland, which initially will be available only bundled with Sony players, and A Christmas Carol, which will be offered in a four-disc combo pack providing 2D and 3D content on separate Blu-Ray media, a DVD, and digital copy. “It’s a single-source solution, with simplified messaging,” she said.

The need to wear costly glasses to view 3D content was cited by several participants as a potential hindrance. “Consumers will wear glasses if the content is compelling and offers something beyond 2D,” said Bob Mayson, president of consumer electronics at RealD, during the Home 3D: Aligning the Messages session. His company’s stereoscopic system uses passive eyewear. “Active glasses [for viewing 3DTV] cost between $70 and $149; they are not mass-market items, although we might see prices fall to between $20 and $30 during the next 12-18 months.

“We will also see a move towards passive eyewear [for 3DTV] within two to three years,” Mayson continued. “The Holy Grail is autostereoscopic systems that do not require glasses, but they are five to 10 years away.” He also predicted that a new generation of intelligent glasses would work with all brands of active systems and that standardized control protocols will be developed.

Lambert can be reached at [email protected] or 818.558-3924.

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