US sports giant ESPN has confirmed it is shutting down its dedicated 3D channel. ESPN 3D launched in 2010 on the back of considerable enthusiasm and helped by success in Hollywood from movies such as Avatar. ESPN says there were too few viewers to make 3D broadcasts worth the effort. According to SNL Kagan it cost around $2.79 a month to view the channel.
ESPN says it will restart 3D transmissions “if or when 3D does take off”. But the decision is even more serious than just the ending of a channel because ESPN’s commitment to 3D meant that there were many important sporting events captured for the channel, and then made available – for a price – to broadcasters such as BSkyB, which seemingly remains enthusiastic about 3D. ESPN produced about 140 events a year in 3D.
ESPN is not the first broadcaster to abandon 3D. Canal Plus switched off its 3D channel after just 18 months on air. It launched in June 2010.
For the past two years or so broadcasters have been waiting for 3D technology to be fitted into higher-end TV sets. Now, the fact is that 3D is available in just about all modern sets over about 36” in size, and yet consumers are still not bothering with the technology. ESPN was available to around 75 million homes in the US.
Most consumer studies blame the ‘nuisance’ of 3D glasses, and while there’s plenty of work being done on glasses-free broadcasting the developments are still experimental.