CES Report: Panasonic, NBC Olympics Team Up for 3D Games; Social TV Is Front and Center

NBC Universal will broadcast more than 200 hours of Olympics coverage in 3D, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, according to a new deal between Panasonic and NBC Olympics.

Speaking at Panasonic’s CES press event, NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, “It’s great to be here and be part of this announcement. I have been with NBC since the 1992 Games, and many of us kept up with technology and want to bring consumers the Olympics in the way they want to view it. So we will have more than 200 hours of 3D Olympics coverage for the first time ever in the U.S., and we’re very excited about it.”

The 3D broadcasts, which will be produced by OBS and shown on next-day delay, will span multiple competitions throughout the London 2012 Olympic Games. Gymnastics, diving, and swimming will be among the sports covered.

OBS will use Panasonic’s state-of-the-art 3D-production technologies, including the AG-3DP1, a P2HD professional fully integrated twin-lens Full HD 3D camera recorder. Cable, satellite, and telco providers that receive the Olympics package may distribute the 3D broadcast via the Comcast Media Center.

Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics Marketing Co. of North America, also announced that Panasonic will continue its sponsorship of N3D, the 3D channel on DIRECTV. The two companies will jointly commission and deliver “many hours” of 3D programs.

More 3D
Although the programming side of 3D is moving forward in fits and starts, Vic Carlson, VP of consumer marketing for Panasonic, pointed out that hardware adoption is moving at a rate five times faster than the adoption of HD. According to CEA, 7 million 3D TV sets and 9 million 3D Blu-ray capable players will be on the market by 2012, 20% of all TV and Blu-ray units.

Thanks to Panasonic’s commitment, 93% of its plasma models and 40% of its LCD models will be 3D-capable in 2012. And four of the six Blu-ray players to be introduced at CES will be.

The press event was also highlighted by social-media and communications developments that move the TV experience beyond simply sitting back and consuming. A split-screen social-TV feature allows the user to launch Skype while watching shows on a VIERA HDTV. Skype brings social-TV functionality to a whole new level with an app that allows the user to access social-media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, while also enjoying programming.

”Skype has proved to be very popular for Panasonic’s VIERA Connect2, and our research showed that users wanted a feature that would permit them to watch their HDTV, while at the same time video-chatting with friends and family,” says Merwan Mereby, VP, Panasonic Corp. of North America. “VIERA Connect is a cloud-based and robust IPTV platform that lets consumers connect like never before. We firmly believe that connected TV will continue to become an increasingly important feature for consumers, and Panasonic is focused on providing the consumer with the best possible Internet experience. To that end, we are working diligently to build upon the already strong entertainment and connectivity experiences our VIERA Connect customers can enjoy.”

Also at the event, Panasonic and MySpace introduced MySpace TV, an over-the-top social-TV service that provides messaging and other features, such as social updates and sharing of movies, shows, and music.

“It’s not Web video,” says My Space co-owner Justin Timberlake. “It’s television and all the content we know and love but enhancing it with a social layer.”

Initial channels on MySpace TV will be music-focused, leveraging MySpace’s unparalleled music rights and library of 100,000 music videos and 42 million songs.

MySpace TV will expand beyond music, however, to encompass movies, news, sports, and reality channels, with a growing lineup of today’s most popular broadcast and on-demand content. Not only will audiences be able to view their favorite television programs, but MySpace TV will also allow them to chat about what they’re viewing while they’re viewing it and invite friends to watch with them virtually. The platform fully integrates social and television in new ways, adding a dimension to content discovery and evolving the traditional television experience. A companion app will be available for tablets and smartphones, providing instant-sync capabilities for a seamless experience.

“MySpace was the first successful social network because it allowed individuals to share their interests, listen to music, express their creativity, and connect around the things they love,” said MySpace CEO Tim Vanderhook. “Historically, TV has been a shared experience, as people gathered together to watch their favorite programs. Our belief was that we could enhance the TV experience by increasing viewers’ ability to connect to both content and each other. By partnering with Panasonic, we’re bringing together the content that people love and a social experience in one service: MySpace TV.”

Launching in the first half of 2012, MySpace TV’s over-the-top television service will be offered across the Panasonic VIERA Connect platform.

Also announced, Panasonic’s plasma displays (17 new models in 2012) feature a cloud-based architecture to increase the VIERA Connect IPTV platform to an unlimited number of apps. New to selected VIERA TVs is the inclusion of a browser, further enhancing the Internet platform, as well as the addition of “3D Real Sound” with 8-Train Speakers to further enhance sound quality.

In addition, Panasonic continues its commitment to the environment by improving panel luminance efficiency, as well as producing mercury and lead-free panels. To further improve the in-home 3D-viewing experience, Panasonic introduced its latest generation of lightweight 3D glasses. Weighing only 27 grams, they are based on Bluetooth technology and feature a rechargeable battery.

Panasonic Gets Its Kicks
Panasonic also announced a multifaceted, three-year sponsorship agreement that will make the company the “Official Consumer Electronics Partner” of U.S. Soccer as well the “Official/Proud Sponsor” of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams and renews these designations with Major League Soccer. Panasonic has been involved in the sport of soccer in the U.S. for almost 10 years.

Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, is one of a number of MLS facilities that have chosen Panasonic as a technology partner for a variety of products: digital scoreboard displays, LED main video displays, field-level and fascia LED signage, security systems, and VIERA plasma HDTVs used throughout the facility. Other MLS facilities featuring Panasonic products are PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, in Chester, PA, and Livestrong Sporting Park, home of Sporting Kansas City, in Kansas City, KS.

The relationships with U.S. Soccer and MLS will extend through the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the end of the 2014 MLS season. The sponsorship will give Panasonic category exclusivity across U.S. Soccer and MLS properties for a wide range of consumer, professional, and B2B products: HDTV (VIERA), Blu-ray disc, cameras and camcorders (LUMIX), LED signage, TV-broadcast equipment, and point-of-sale systems (excluding payment-services systems), solar and eco systems (MLS only), mobile and tablet computers, and selected personal-care products.

”Panasonic is proud to extend our sponsorship of Major League Soccer and to expand our horizons to support the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Men’s and Women’s National Teams,” said Joe Taylor, chairman/CEO, Panasonic Corp. of North America. “Soccer is a brand on the rise in the U.S. with a broad, global appeal and a target audience aligned with our own brand goals. This relationship is a perfect match with Panasonic’s wide range of critically acclaimed consumer and professional products. We already have many technology partnerships in MLS, and we hope to expand on that with our end-to-end solutions from video production and professional digital stadium displays to stunning Full HD 3D VIERA TVs and LUMIX cameras to take the great game of soccer to a new level of enjoyment for fans both at home and in the arenas.”

Added Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm, “Panasonic has been a strategic partner of MLS for close to a decade. They have been at the forefront of development during the opening of new soccer-specific stadiums, many of which feature great Panasonic technology. Red Bull Arena, the site of tomorrow’s game between the United States and Ecuador, is a great showcase facility for Panasonic and illustrates how they have helped our league grow over the years. It is great to see them expand their relationship with the sport by supporting U.S. Soccer, and we look forward to building upon our partnership for years to come.”

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