3D Invades Your Television: ESPN 3D and a 24/7 3D TV Network Owned by Discovery Communications, Sony Corporation and IMAX

     January 5, 2010

3D Glasses image - movie theater - slice.jpg

If you thought 3D was going to be limited to movie theaters, think again.  That’s because two major 3D announcements just happened and they’re definitely going to change the way all of us watch TV in the coming years.

The first bit of news is ESPN is launching a 3D channel (ESPN 3D) on June 11 with a World Cup soccer match.  The plan is to show at least 85 live sporting events during the first year.

While ESPN 3D proves 3D in the home is real, Discovery Communications, Sony Corporation and IMAX Corporation have just announced they’re joining forces and launching the first 24/7 dedicated 3D television network in the U.S.

Much more after the jump:

3D Glasses image - movie theater.jpgLike you would expect, watching 3D in the home is going to require a TV that’s 3D capable and glasses.  But with more and more people willing to watch 3D in movie theaters, getting them to put on the glasses at home shouldn’t be an issue.

According to the Discovery, Sony and IMAX press release:

The new 3D network will feature high-quality premium content from genres that are most appealing in 3D, 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.

What that means is…the channel is going to be loaded with great content that you’re going to want to watch in 3D.

Getting back to the ESPN 3D news, the rumor is DirecTV is going to announce a new 3D satellite was just launched so they’re probably going to be the ones who have these channels first.  And according to a USA Today article, ESPN is committing to the 3D network through June 2011. “We’re going to assess the viability of this as we did with all our businesses,” says Sean Bratches, an ESPN executive vice president for sales and marketing.

While it’s still very early in the game for 3D in the home, with these two announcements, I’ll admit to being quite excited at the possibilities. With CES currently going on in Las Vegas, expect a lot more home theater announcements in the coming days.

Here’s the full press release about the IMAX channel:

three_3-d_glasses__1_.jpgThree of the world’s leading media, technology and entertainment companies – Discovery Communications, Sony Corporation and IMAX Corporation – today announced a joint venture established to develop the first 24/7 dedicated 3D television network in the U.S. The partnership brings together three leaders with an extraordinary collection of award-winning 3D content, technology expertise, television distribution and operational strength to deliver a high-quality three-dimensional viewing experience to home television audiences. The joint venture intends to launch the network beginning in the U.S.

“Discovery’s business strategy has always focused on delivering groundbreaking content through new platforms, including the first suite of digital channels launched in 1996 and the first 24/7 basic cable HD channel in 2002,” said Discovery Founder and Chairman John Hendricks. “Now, as Discovery celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010 as the world leader in satisfying curiosity and bringing audiences the most realistic viewing experience, we continue to change the face of television with the launch of the first-ever 24/7 dedicated 3D television network.”

“Sony is the only company with expertise in every part of the 3D value chain,” said Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation. “We are delighted to be partnering with Discovery and IMAX, two premier companies also dedicated to leadership in 3D, in this groundbreaking new venture. It is clear to us that consumers will always migrate to a better and richer entertainment experience, and together we are determined to be the leader in providing that around the world.”

“By partnering with Sony and IMAX on 3D, Discovery will lead the way in revolutionizing the next-generation home viewing experience in the U.S. and around the world,” said Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav. “Today’s announcement is the next step in fulfilling Discovery’s mission of providing groundbreaking content for our affiliate partners and enlightening viewers with the most immersive and realistic viewing experience available anywhere.”

imax_3-d_glasses_image.jpg“IMAX has been a pioneer and recognized leader in 3D technology for more than twenty-five years, delivering the premium in-theatre experience to audiences around the world. We’re reaching more and more consumers with the recent expansion of the IMAX® theatre network and the growth of 3D movie content,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “This new business venture is the first step in our strategic effort to take 3D into the home and extend the IMAX brand. We’ve already had strong collaborations with Discovery Communications and Sony in the past on IMAX event film titles, and we are thrilled to work with such strong partners to be the first to make in-home 3D a reality.”

Discovery, Sony, through its U.S. affiliate, Sony Corporation of America, and IMAX each will be equal partners in the joint venture. It will be launched in the U.S., with a goal of driving consumer adoption of 3D televisions and giving the network long-term leadership in the 3D home marketplace. In the future, the companies also will explore international distribution opportunities in selected markets.

Discovery will provide network services, including affiliate sales and technical support functions, as well as 3D television rights to Discovery content and cross-promotion across its portfolio of 13 U.S. television networks. Sony will provide advertising/sponsorship sales support, and will seek to license television rights to current and future 3D feature films, music-related 3D content and game-related 3D content, while providing cross-promotion at retail stores. IMAX also will license television rights to future 3D films, promotion through its owned-and-operated movie theaters across the U.S., and a suite of proprietary and patented image enhancement and 3D technologies.

Governance for the joint venture will be handled by a board of directors comprised of members from each of the three companies, with the day-to-day operations run by a separate staff and management team that will report to the board. A search for the venture’s general manager will begin immediately.

The parties have signed a non-binding Letter of Intent. Specific financial terms of the venture were not disclosed. The parties will work towards prompt execution of definitive agreements, subject to any necessary regulatory approvals.

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