The rise and rise of Avatar as far as the international box-office was concerned is all so long ago. That Avatar – and more recent Hollywood events – have raised the profile for 3D is undoubted. But there have also been critical 3D flops (but sometimes financial hits) such as Clash of the Titans, Cats & Dogs and others. The question being asked ahead of the giant IBC show in Amsterdam is whether TV can tap into the world’s fascination and enthusiasm for 3D, and without transmitting too many turkeys!
Recent comments suggest a major concern, as explained by analyst Richard Greenfield: “The studios and theaters are overpricing 3-D films, and there’s too much of it out there. They are converting all of their movies into 3-D without any regard to quality.”
The $64,000 question for the likes of BSkyB, DirecTV, Canal+ and other pay-TV broadcasters is how much emphasis must they place on Hollywood for 3D fare? There is plenty of material on its way, notwithstanding Mr Greenfield’s anxieties. The studios have packed their release schedules with 3-D films including “Tron: Legacy,” “The Green Hornet,” “Megamind” and “Yogi Bear” set for release in the coming months, while “Avatar” will be re-released (with new scenes) in 3-D at the end of August. “The studios are guilty of short-term thinking,” said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, a firm that tracks film box-office performance. “They all jumped on the 3-D bandwagon, but they’re avoiding the real issue, which is their bankruptcy regarding storytelling.”
Pay-TV is famous for story-telling dramas and movies – and of course sport. But quite how much sport in 3D will be available is yet to be seen. There will be Hollywood movies in 3D, but as yet little drama in the shape of top-flight long-form series. This dearth of popular programming is just one of the reasons why the likes of BSkyB are sensibly investing hard cash in original 3D productions. They will be needed to fill the limited hours of iSky’s debut 3D channel, shortly to go live.
Few doubt that pay-TV will embrace 3D, if only to emphasise its bandwidth advantages over IPTV and even cable-based pay-TV suppliers. However, it will be interesting to see how some of Sky’s non-mainstream experimental investments translate into full-time 3D commitments. And will Sky 3D overcome the somewhat anti-social nature of 3D viewing? These, and similar questions will be addressed at the upcoming IBC talk-fest.
And here’s another worry that will become apparent between now and January’s CES show: some manufacturers are talking about shifting their strategies from 3D sets to Over The Top interactive applications that reside on TV sets. These manufacturers, like Panasonic and others, have discovered they can create continuing income streams by working with content providers to create their own app stores.