3DTV 2010: Consumer Adoption Still Uncertain

Execs at NewBay Media event say networks are ready, debate best practices for rollout of emerging technology
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New York -- 3D service may be poised to break out of the gates, with ESPN
launching the World Cup in 3D next month following several high-profile event broadcasts
this year. But according to executives gathered here at the Roosevelt Hotel May 25 for 3DTV 2010, an event produced
by B&C and fellow NewBay Media brands Multichannel News, TWICE, TV Technology, DV and Videography
, consumer
adoption still has away to go before the emerging technology reaches critical
mass.

"This definitely is the year that everybody's
converging on 3D except for one person, and that's the consumer," said
HDMI Licensing President Steve Venuti, speaking on a panel entitled "Getting 3D
into the Home" and moderated by Multichannel News Technology Editor Todd
Spangler.

Venuti's fellow panelists concurred, but many added that
since the 3D viewer experience is so compelling, it is just a matter of time
before the technology becomes an accepted entertainment medium. 

"[There is] definitely a consumer acceptance piece
that's going to drive the overall adoption of 3D," said Motorola Devices
and Home Motorola VP/General Manager Larry Robinson.  "The networks
are ready.  The boxes are ready.  There's a path to deliver that
experience today."

But consumer adoption poses some considerable challenges
since the service requires additional bandwidth, 3D viewer guides are not
currently available and there is limited 3D content available.  That has
focused much of the hype around 3D on big-ticket live sporting events, such as Comcast's
airing of the Masters in 3D
and ESPN's
upcoming World Cup coverage
.

"It literally made the golf course come alive,"
said Comcast Advanced Business and Technology Development Senior VP Mark Hess
of the Masters in 3D.  Hess and DirecTV New Media and Business Development
Senior VP Steven Roberts both touted their 3D content offerings as the best in
the industry, with Roberts referring to the testing his company is doing at
Anaheim Stadium for a potential 3D shoot of the Major League Baseball All-Star
Game.

"If there's a subscriber out there that wants 3D,
we'll have the most consistent 3D [content]," he told the audience,
adding, "Our infrastructure is certainly ready."

SES World Skies CTO Alan Young said there is bandwidth on
the satellites to deliver 3D but he said operators must be efficient since 3D
sends two images through the pipes.  Viewers only see about 1% the number
of bits on their screen of what is actually produced already, he said.  He
also issued a warning about the dangers of giving viewers a poor 3D
experience.  "If you produce bad HD, then you have a bad
picture.  If you have bad 3D, you will produce headaches and nausea in the
viewer."

With those caveats, the executives still seemed mostly
optimistic that 3D will continue to percolate consumer interest. 
"It's definitely a chicken and egg thing," said Young. 
"Critical mass will be reached when 3D is economically beneficial,"
which will come about when more viewers purchase 3D-ready equipment.

Hess said there were a number of issues, "some
technical, some behavioral.  But because the viewer experience is so good,
it's going to happen."

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