3DTV 2011: ESPN's World Cup Coverage Netted A 'Presence'

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New York -- ESPN's 3D presentation of the 2010 World Cup had a certain "presence."

That was one of the key findings of a comprehensive study by ESPN Research + Analytics, which compiled results, spanning over 700 measures, from more than 1,000 testing sessions and 2,700 hours of participants watching live or nearly live matches at the Disney Media and Ad Lab in Austin, Texas, last June and July.

Speaking at the "3DTV 2011 What's Next?" conference here Thursday afternoon, Artie Bulgrin, senior vice president of ESPN Research + Analytics, said that while there weren't significant differences among viewers checking out the contests in 2D versus 3D relative to enjoyment and involvement levels, there was a major uptick in the "presence" quotient.

The research showed that 42% of respondents indicated that they felt like they were in the stadium during 2D presentations of the World Cup games. That percentage jumped to 69% for those watching in 3D. Bulgrin said viewers described that it "felt like really being there" of their 3D World Cup viewing experiences.

Similarly, data about presence grew from 42% for 2D viewing, to 52% for 2D to 3D conversion of the match images, and 69% for the matches delivered in native HD.

"Presence will likely be the defining attribute of 3D," said Bulgrin during his presentation at the NewBay Media conference, hosted by Multichannel News, Broadcasting & Cable, TWICE, TV Technology, DV and Videography.

The 3D World Cup study, which used systems from five different 3D manufacturers and active and passive glasses, also gauged response to advertising in the enhanced, versus the traditional, format.

There were positives here as well on at least five different levels: recognition grew from 83% in 2D to 94% in 3D; cued recall improved from 68% to 83%; indications of the likelihood of intent to purchase rose from 49% to 83%; ad likeability jumped from 67% to 84%; and more favorable brand disposition increased to 72% from 76%.

Bulgrin noted there were limited commercials during ESPN's World Cup coverage as just four ads aired during the pre-, post-game and halftime segments, with run-of-match coverage presented commercial-free. The spots on display: a 3D SportsCenter-themed promo, and spots for Toy Story 3, Gillette and Sony, the official sponsor of the ESPN 3D network.

The study did not reveal any major differences between passive and active 3D TV sets, in terms of overall impact or enjoyment of the programming. Still, more participants preferred donning the passive glasses, saying they were more comfortable than the heavier, battery-operated active counterparts.

The former frames were also more conducive to conversation.

"The passive glasses were less likely to disrupt interaction with others, which is certainly the more traditional TV viewing experience," said Bulgrin.

The study also addressed health issues/myths emanating from 3D viewing, and found them to be largely a non-factor with concerns about dizziness and nausea dismissed, and incidents of eye strain, headaches and fatigue relatively minimal compared to those watching 2D. Respondents also evinced no adverse reactions to depth perception, for which ESPN tested before and after study participants watched the matches.

"We certainly didn't want anybody getting in a car and driving on the freeway if there was a problem," said Bulgrin. "We're happy to report that [3D viewing] didn't affect depth perception."