YES Network, FSN Northwest and DirecTV will throw out the first pitch on 3D Major League Baseball telecasts come July.
The parties will present the New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners games on Saturday July 10 and Sunday July 11 in 3D from Safeco Field in Seattle, making them the first MLB games to be presented in the format.
At this point, the Yankees-Mariners 3D broadcasts -- coming just before DirecTV, in conjunction with Fox Sports, presents MLB's All-Star Game in the enhanced format from Anaheim on July 13 -- will be made available to the DBS provider's HD customers with 3D-capable TV sets that are within the YES's "home team footprint" of New York State and Connecticut, north and central New Jersey, and northeast Pennsylvania.
YES Network COO Ray Hopkins, speaking on a press call announcing the telecasts, said the regional sports network will be making the 3D games available to other distributors within its coverage area. "Other distributors will have the opportunity to strike deals with us," he said.
The 3D telecasts, fashioned using NEP SS3D with production from PACE, led by CEO Vince Pace, will also air live within the FSN Northwest territory, encompassing the states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Montana and Idaho. FSN Northwest, along with FSN Rocky Mountain and FSN Pittsburgh, are controlled by DirecTV Sports
Eric Shanks, executive vice president of entertainment for DirecTV, said no decision has been made yet about showcasing the Yankees-Mariners 3D baseball telecasts more broadly, clearances that would rub up against the sport's out-of-market package and would have to come from MLB.
The RSNs will also present the games in high-definition, with a separate set of announce teams.
The Yankees-Mariners telecasts will be the latest in a recent run of sports gaining the 3D treatment: part of golf's The Masters tournament were shot by ESPN and distributed by Comcast Media Center to a number of video providers; CBS presented the Final Four and championship game in the advanced format in select theaters; and MSG offered the New York Ranger-New York Islanders National Hockey League game, which was available exclusively to Cablevision homes and a theater at the MSG, in the format during late March. The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be a big part of the debut of the ESPN 3D network, when it kicks off in June
DirecTV and Panasonic will be the presenting sponsors of the two Yankees-Mariners 3D telecasts, scheduled to ait at 10 p.m. (ET) and 4 p.m. on July 10 and July 11, respectively.
"That's not to say there won't be additional ones," said Hopkins, when asked if those companies would control all advertising inventory during YES's 3D showings.
Hopkins also said YES expects to host viewing events largely for the clients of the RSN, DirecTV and Panasonic.
The telecasts are expected to feature between six and eight 3D cameras, featuring traditional positioning, as well as some down low.
"With 3D, low-home camera positions are better," said Hopkins, viewing the the telecasts as "a real test phase and learning experiment."
Looking ahead, he said these productions and YES's ability to work with affiliates and sponsors would be key. "Moving forward, we will see how immersive 3D can be and then weigh, from a business standpoint, how best to mount 3D productions beyond 2010."
For his part, Shanks said the games would provide "a day-to-day look at real baseball production," something which he deemed essential for such telecasts on an ongoing basis -- albeit somewhere down the road. Shanks said DirecTV would gauge reaction and interest from its other RSNs and the MLB clubs they cover, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies, about perhaps offering other ballgames in 3D.
More immediately, the telecasts, with some of the production personnel, including Pace, working in Seattle and Anaheim, will serve in many respects as dress rehearsal for the Mid-Summer Classic
"There will at least be some experience when the All-Star game is broadcast in 3D, and it will help make the All-Star game coverage perfect," said Shanks. "Getting two games under the belt of the production teams is key."
Earlier, DirecTV/Fox engaged in a spring training of sorts by filming a pair of high school teams playing in an empty Angel Stadium.
Shanks also said DirecTV would "learn a lot about [3D] economics through the course of 2010-11, and there won't be a week without some sporting event being produced in 3D."
Beginning in June, DirecTV HD customers will receive a free software upgrade providing access to dedicated 3D channels: N3D powered by Panasonic, ESPN 3D, a 3D DirecTV Cinema channel, and a 3D DirecTV On Demand channel. The customers will need a 3D television set and 3D glasses to view the 3D programming.