Discovery, Sony, IMAX set 3D agenda

Discovery Communications, Sony Corporation and IMAX Corporation announced at CES that they are forming a joint venture to create a 24-hour 3D television network in the US. They gave no details on carriage with pay-TV operators or the technical infrastructure behind the service but Discovery says it will start talks with distributors now and it expects the channel to be a broadly distributed entertainment channel, not a premium offering.

The partnership aims to launch in the US. in 2011 with a mix of 3D-friendly content, including natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures and children’s programming from Discovery, Sony Pictures Entertainment, IMAX and other third-party providers. It will also explore international distribution opportunities in the future.

Separately ESPN (a Disney company) announced ESPN 3D but has only committed to that network through June, 2011.

Meanwhile, Discovery founder John Hendricks likened the launch to that of Discovery HD Theater in 2002. Hendricks said that the network will target primarily early adopters for the first 24-36 months, people who will likely be the first to buy television sets that are 3D capable. After that, the target households will be the 20 million affluent homes in the U.S., after which the technology and the price point will likely be affordable to the average consumer.

The channel will require specialized glasses though Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer said they expect 3D sets that do not require glasses to be available in about 3-5 years. The companies also say the channel will require about 6 megahertz of bandwidth, or about the same amount required for a standard high definition channel.

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