Ice Cubed: Cablevision Drops Puck on 3D Sports


Cablevision Systems and Madison Square
Garden scored first in the hype-game of 3D television,
though it will still be years before 3DTVs become mainstream

The New York-area operator and MSG Network touted
the first-ever live 3D sports telecast to home viewers
— the March 24 New York Rangers-New York Islanders
National Hockey League game — which was available exclusively
to the cable operator’s customers.

The enhanced game feed wasn’t offered to telco competitors
while other cable and satellite TV operators either
didn’t have enough time to accommodate carriage or, in
DirecTV’s case, opted not to offer a “one-off event.”

MSG Media president Mike Bair said the network approached
other distributors, including DirecTV and Time
Warner Cable, about carrying the game in 3D, but the project’s
quick turnaround made it logistically impossible to

“We just announced this [to affiliates] two weeks ago,” he said.
Bair said MSG’s next 3D event will likely be a concert
this summer, produced through its Fuse music network.

The 3D version of the Rangers-Islanders game, which
ran without commercials, was available exclusively
to Cablevision subscribers with HD set-top boxes, on
channel 1300. It is unknown how many Cablevision customers
actually viewed the game on a 3DTV — but it
couldn’t have been very many, given that the sets from
Panasonic, Samsung and other makers just went on sale
earlier in March. The Consumer Electronics Association
expects only 1 million 3DTV sets will be sold in the U.S. in 2010, indicating it will be several years before a sizable
TV audience exists for such programming.

Cablevision said it was aware of several subscribers,
including some “friendlies,” who tuned in to the live
broadcast but the operator declined to provide numbers.

MSG also hosted a 3D viewing event at the Theater
at Madison Square Garden for about 2,600 hockey fans,
media and partners; attendees included Cablevision
chairman and CEO James Dolan, who is also executive
chairman of the newly spun-off MSG.

To produce a better 3D perspective, the five special-purpose
3D camera rigs from 3ality Digital were located closer
to the Madison Square Garden ice than with conventional
broadcasts. However, that setup meant the rink’s Plexiglas
panels loomed in the foreground of wide shots and spectators
occasionally thrust arms or heads into the bottom of
the frame — both distracting effects.

Time Warner Cable confirmed that MSG offered the
3D telecast, “but we did not have enough time to turn it
around,” said spokeswoman Maureen Huff .

RCN representatives said they were not offered a
chance to air the 3D contest, while Dish Network did
not respond to a request for comment.

DirecTV, for its part, is expecting to launch three
3DTV channels in June, centered around sports, movies
and video-on-demand.

“We were offered the event and we were technically
prepared to deliver it, as we demonstrated at CES when
we delivered a live 3D feed to our CE partners on the
show floor,” said DirecTV in a statement. “However, we
declined the opportunity because rather than focus on
one-off events, our commitment at this time is to provide
our HD customers with a complete 3D experience,
which will include three dedicated 3D channels, beginning
this June. To date, we are the first and only distributor
to announce such a commitment and offering.”

Bair said MSG does not have rights to distribute sports
broadcasts as part of a separate programming package
or channel.

Meanwhile, MSG did not give Verizon Communications
or AT&T — which both compete in Cablevision’s
footprint — the opportunity to carry the 3D telecast.
Network spokesman Dan Schoenberg said that because
it was “an HD/3D telecast... it was made available
to MSG’s HD subscribers.”

Currently, MSG does not provide the HD feed of the
network to Verizon and AT&T, under the so-called “terrestrial
loophole” in the Federal Communications Commission’s
program-access rules, which prevent cable
operators from striking exclusive deals for satellite-delivered
programming in which the operator has a financial
interest. The commission has voted to eliminate that
exemption; both telcos have appealed to the FCC to be
able to distribute MSG HD.

Separately, earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit Court
denied a challenge by Cablevision and Comcast to the
FCC’s program-access rules.

Verizon director of media relations Jim Smith, in a
blog post last week, announced that FiOS will offer 3DTV
content sometime in 2010. He alluded to the Cablevision/
MSG 3D telecast as one of “various grandstanding
plays by cable companies who also produce content
and can play it on their networks in 3D, hoping to make
headlines with their ‘firsts’ while excluding Verizon and
other competitors from carrying this material.”

The game was shot using 3ality Digital’s image-capturing
technology. Game Creek Video provided a mobile
video production truck, working with 3ality Digital
camera rigs and image-processing systems. Harris provided
NetVX encoders and signal-processing equipment
to transmit the 3DTV signals, which were delivered in
“side-by-side” frame-compatible format.

MSG used RealD’s stereoscopic cinema system in
the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and distributed
RealD’s passive polarized glasses to attendees. Cablevision
customers who wanted to watch the 3D game
would have required a compatible television capable of
rendering side-by-side 3DTV signals.

Several network executives cited the “historic” significance
of the 3DTV broadcast, and noted that in 1998
MSG was the first sports network to provide HD coverage
of all Knicks and Rangers home games in the thenemerging

The Rangers, which have an outside chance of making
the National Hockey League playoffs, bested the Islanders
in a 5-0 romp.

MSG’s 3D hockey telecast precedes
a flurry of sports activity in the nascent

CBS is set to present the Final Four, the national
semifinals of the 2010 Men’s Division I Basketball
Championships, on April 3, and the final, on April
5, in 3D to 100 theaters around the nation with LG
Electronics and Cinedigm Digital Cinema.

Comcast will deliver back-nine coverage
of The
Masters from Augusta National Course April 8-11,
as well as the Par 3 Tournament on April 7, in 3D
HD, with Sony Electronics, to its cable customers
with the requisite equipment.

SPN 3D is scheduled to kick off with the World
June 11 meeting between South Africa and
Mexico; the programmer has not announced carriage

SOURCE: Multichannel News research