Apparently on the theory that early adopters are less price sensitive than others, Time Warner Cable is charging extra for ESPN 3D, offering a “3D Pass” for $10 per month in various markets including New York City, the Carolinas, Wisconsin, Texas and Ohio.
Right now, it looks like ESPN 3D is the only content available with 3D Pass, although TWC also offers several free 3D on-demand movies (see In Demand Lobs 3D VOD To Comcast, Time Warner Cable).
That puts TWC in line with AT&T U-verse TV. The telco also charges $10 per month extra for the 3D Technology Package, which includes ESPN 3D and several 3D movies.
Will some distributors keep 3D on a premium tier permanently?
Inevitably, charging extra for 3D will slow adoption of the new format — and 3DTV isn’t even taking off as some had hoped (see 3DTV 2011: Set Sales Get Failing Grade So Far). Note that a few pay-TV providers, including Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network, still charge for small bundles of certain HD-only channels but in general high-def programming is included with all major digital TV subscription plans.
To me, charging extra for ESPN 3D seems like, say, a restaurant trying to sell you after-dinner mints. It’s early days and 3D programming amounts to a small taste: ESPN 3D’s lineup for the entire month of December includes a Harlem Globetrotters game, the Jimmy V Classic and SEC/Big East Challenge college hoops, and the Miami Heat at New York Knicks on Dec. 17.
Why not give your biggest-spending customers an extra reason to keep their TV provider, by throwing in 3D for free? I’m sure Globtrotters v. Generals will look awesome in 3D. But it should be a lagniappe, not an additional course of the meal.