ESPN 3D's World Cup Presentation: More Effective For Match Enjoyment, Ads

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New York -- Study groups viewing the World Cup in 3D enjoyed the matches more than those who watched the 2D version of the futbol telecasts, their recall for the enhanced format ads was greater and generally speaking there were fewer adverse health impacts from eyeing the format than bouncing a soccer ball off one's head.
Those were among the key takeaways from a comprehensive research 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 games during the programmer's 3D coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup at the Disney Media and Ad Lab in Austin, Texas. ESPN hosted a presentation for reporters here on Thursday morning, when it disclosed some of the study's findings.
Professor Duane Varan, executive director and chief research officer of the Disney Media & Advertising Lab, who spearheaded the study, said the research, which used systems from five different 3D manufacturers and active and passive glasses, found that participants reported that their enjoyment of the match grew to 70% in 3D, versus 65% for the 2D view, while their feeling of the game's "presence" surged to 69% in 3D from 42%.
From an advertising perspective, the numbers were also encouraging on at least five fronts: ad 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%.
It should also be pointed out that only four ads -- a 3D SportsCenter-themed promo, and spots for Toy Story 3, Gillette and Sony, the official sponsor of the ESPN 3D network -- aired during the pre-, post-game and halftime segments, as the run-of-match coverage was presented commercial-free.
The study did not reveal any major difference between passive and active 3D TV sets, relative to the overall impact or enjoyment of the programming. Still, participants gave their thumbs up to the passive frames as being more comfortable and less distracting than the heavier, battery-operated active glasses that most manufacturers are currently providing with their 3D-enabled TV sets.
Health issues, stemming from 3D viewing, were largely a non-factor with concerns about dizziness and nausea dismissed, and incidents of eye strain, headaches and fatigue minimal compared to those watching in 2D. Respondents also evinced no adverse reaction relative to depth perception. Comfort levels for the participants increased over time, presumably as they became more acclimated to the glasses and the images, However, short breaks in 3D viewing were deemed to beneficial overall.
Thus far, the sports giant has produced 38 events in 3D, and is en route to its goal of airing 100 in the enhanced format during ESPN3D's first year, which kicked off with the World Cup from South Africa last June.
ESPN vice president/strategic business planning and development Bryan Burns, noting that the ESPN 3D is available to more than 62 million through affiliate commitments, said "We're headed in the right direction. We're right where we should be."
Both Burns and Artie Bulgrin, senior VP of ESPN Research + Analytics, said that ESPN 3D will outpace where ESPN HD was after its first year in terms of set penetration and actual viewing. Bulgrin pointed out that many early purchasers of HD sets didn't get the necessary set-tops that would have enabled them to watch the programming in that enhanced format.
"The [3D adoption] curve will move more rapidly [than withHD], provided there is enough content," Bulgrin predicted.