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ESPN Shutting Down 3D Channel At Year's End

Cites Lack Of Viewer Interest In Enhanced Service 6/12/2013 7:20 AM Eastern

After three years, ESPN is shutting down its 3DTV network at the end of the year and said it will distribute resources to other ESPN services.

The company, which bowed ESPN3D in June 2010, initially to bullish prospects, said there was not enough interest in the service from a consumer perspective. ESPN will close the network, which had carriage deals with six top distributors making the channel available to some 75 million households, though only a limited number of pay-TV customers actually subscribe to it.

It's offered on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks and Verizon FiOS TV, ESPN said. The network had been producing some 140 live events annually. To view the channel, a customer typically had to buy a 3D level of service. The need to use 3D glasses has also been cited as an impediment to 3DTV uptake.

SNL Kagan has estimated ESPN charged $2.79 per subscriber for ESPN3D in 2013, second only to ESPN among national services. In 2011, AT&T U-verse dropped the channel, citing low demand and a high fee. This past spring, AT&T agreed to reinstate the offering.

The decision to close ESPN3D also stems from parent Walt Disney Co.’s internal review of operations, which recently resulted in the reported cut of 300-400 jobs, some of them associated with ESPN3D. ESPN has said that figure also includes some unfilled positions.

Over the years, ESPN3D has televised such high-profile matchups as the BCS National Championship Game, Wimbledon and FIFA 2010 World Cup in the enhanced format. The World Cup marked the service’s coming out party.

The sports service also has been experimenting with 4K ultra-high-definition technology to enhance existing HD services but has not announced any timeframe for its deployment.

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