Technology

CBS Mulls 3D Cable Network

7/11/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

The Eye is trying 3D glasses on for size.

CBS may be bringing 3D versions of its shows to a 24-hour
cable network, and it has already demonstrated 2D-to-3D converted
programming
privately
to several operators,
according to
industry sources
familiar with the
project.

The broadcast
network is
considering a
strategy to gain
distribution for
the 3D channel
through its retransmissionconsent
negotiations
with cable,
satellite and
telco TV operators,
according
to one source.

However, another
executive
familiar with
CBS’s 3D tests
said the network has not made a decision on whether to move
forward. “It is all very preliminary,” this source said. “There are
no solid plans to launch a network.”

CBS worked with Los Angeles-based Dynamic Digital
Depth, known as DDD, which uses its 2D-to-3D technology
to convert, relatively inexpensively, existing material
into 3D format.

A CBS spokesman declined to comment. DDD had previously
declined to identify the broadcast partner it was working
with.

According to DDD CEO Chris Yewdall, the company is
able to convert two-dimensional video into 3D for $10,000
per hour of content, using a combination of an automated
process with a human stereoscopic engineer. That’s as little
as 10% of what Hollywood post-production houses have
charged to convert a single minute of a 2D movie into 3D
for theatrical release.

To date, a fairly limited supply of 3D content has been
available through pay TV operators since the current wave
of 3DTV sets hit the market in early 2010. Only two linear 3D
channels are currently available to all U.S providers: ESPN
3D and 3Net from Discovery Communications, Sony and
IMAX, the latter of which is carried only by DirecTV.

Meanwhile, 3DTVs aren’t going to hit critical mass for
several years. Just 1.8 million U.S. households will have a
3D television by the end of this year — representing 2% of all
TV homes — but the category will pick up the pace to reach
21% by 2015, according to a new forecast from SNL Kagan.

Given those factors — along with the fact that consumers
have expressed irritation with the glasses — not all operators
are gung-ho on the format.

“We’re dipping our toe in the water with 3D on-demand,”
Melani Griffith, senior vice president of programming and
video services at Insight Communications, said. “It feels
very sexy, but I don’t know how real it is. Like a DeLorean
car, it looks sexy, but I’m not sure how practical it is.”

Comcast, for its part, has moved quickly on the 3D front,
launching ESPN 3D and its own Xfinity 3D network.

“We’ve been disappointed but not surprised by the lack of
adoption on the 3D front,” Marcien Jenckes, Comcast’s senior
vice president and general manager of video services,
said. Like HD, “that’s also a richer format that we believe we
can have a leadership position in.”

Comcast’s action on 3D wasn’t a response to DirecTV, which
also was a first-mover in 3DTV, Jenckes said. He acknowledged
cable had to play catch-up on the HD front after DirecTV took
the lead on channel count several years ago (see “Digital Video:
The Next Wave” special report).

“I wouldn’t look at 3D as a ‘lesson learned’ from the HD
front. … We, as a company, spend a lot of time and energy talking
with consumers about what engages them. Our desire to be
aggressive on 3D is based on what consumers have told us.”

March