News

3DTV: No Tech Windfall

4/12/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

The TV industry’s mad dash
into the third dimension won’t lead
to a boom in sales of video-delivery
equipment.

The burst of 3DTV activity includes
such events as last week’s The Masters
golf tournament, carried in 3D by
Comcast and other operators, as well
as this summer’s scheduled launches
of ESPN 3D and DirecTV’s dedicated
3D channels.

However, while 3DTV is expected to be
popular for certain kinds of content — primarily
movies and sporting events — the
rise of the format “will have little impact on
how operators spend to deliver 3D content,”
according to Infonetics Research analyst Jeff
Heynen.

That’s because cable and satellite providers,
at least initially, are delivering
three-dimensional video in a “framecompatible”
format that takes up the
same amount of space as a regular HD
stream — and is therefore treated by
video-delivery equipment exactly as if
it were any other HD signal.

For example, Comcast has carried The
Masters in 3D as an MPEG-2 stream at
18.75 Megabits per second, similar to the
bandwidth allocated for live sports programming
in HD.

Any 3DTV growth will represent a continuation
of the upgrades required to deliver
more HD, such as additional edge quadrature
amplitude modulation devices for cable
operators, Heynen added.

By contrast, the move to deliver highdefinition programming required a much
bigger investment for new HD-capable receivers
and encoders.

Case in point: DirecTV will use its existing
HD encoders from Harmonic —
which it has bought over the last three
years — to launch three dedicated 3DTV
channels in June.

On the set-top side, DirecTV will release
a software upgrade for the boxes to recognize
3D content and pass it to the TV.

March