ESPN has announced it will broadcast this year’s FIFA World Cup finals in 3D. It will be the flagship programming at the launch of a specific 3D station which will also show NBA games as part of a minimum of 85 3D broadcasts this year. The Discovery Network is also to launch a 3D channel in 2011 in association with Sony, while Direct TV is rumored to be working on one as well.
The ESPN channel has been in testing for two years and currently requires a completely separate set of cameras (pictured) and production equipment. It will only be on air when there is a live event to broadcast, while the Discovery channel plans to broadcast continuously.
The network hasn’t yet detailed the precise technology it will use for the broadcasts. However, it has spoken of the new station as “a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3D television sets” which strongly suggests that viewers will need a new TV rather than simply using a pair of 3D specs they got from inside a cornflakes box.
That’s likely to be a major disincentive given that most tech-loving viewers are likely to have splashed out on HD sets in the past few years and won’t have the appetite for buying a new TV any time soon, particularly coming out of a recession.
It’s arguable that with the possible exception of the Olympics, the World Cup is the most important showcase for new broadcast technology. It may be psychological claptrap, but there’s a theory that the 1970 event in Mexico remains a vivid memory for many because it was the first broadcast in color, complete with glorious blue skies and the yellow shirts of Brazil. More recently, the push to get high definition pictures through over-the-air broadcasts in the United Kingdom has a clear, if unofficial, target of being in place before this summer’s events.
[Picture source: ESPN Media Source]