If Sky is backing it, chances are that 3D entertainment is here to stay. Let’s hope the quality of content can keep up this timeby Peter Bazalgette / December 16, 2009 / Leave a comment
Can 3D’s modern offerings be better than one-dimensional?
Excitement about 3D entertainment breaks out every decade or two, rather like a flu epidemic. And it seems to evaporate just as quickly and mysteriously. This festive season, as we enjoy James Cameron’s 3D eco-movie, Avatar, we learn that television is also going to get in on the act. BSkyB has announced Europe’s first 3D television channel for 2010. It could be with us as soon as April.
The mood in tellyland is despondent. Commercial television suffered its biggest ever fall in advertising revenues in 2009. The BBC seems to have alienated both Labour and the Tories and the latter are threatening the corporation with a licence fee freeze in 2012. However, the third arm of television revenue, subscription, continues to grow robustly. Sky is nearing its target of 10m subscribers. Not only is it increasing the number of subscribers but it is also persuading existing customers to spend more. This is a piece of alchemy referred to as ARPU (average revenue per user). Just two years ago we used to spend about £34 a month on its packages of sports and movies, now it’s nearer £40. How does it do it? By offering more and more luxuries for us to buy. Broadband and high-definition television have taken off strongly, as has the time-shift technology, Sky+, already in 60 per cent of Sky homes. Now 3D TV is being lined up as our next indulgence.
I have just visited Sky HQ in southwest London for a demonstration of the service. The technology still polarises two images but no longer relies on the old red and green separation. I saw a soccer match they had shot with new 3D cameras. Far from the old gimmicks of bringing images out of the screen towards you, this concentrated on lending an intriguing depth and perspective to the game. They want to give us the feeling we’re there. I also watched the band Keane perform a gig at Abbey Road Studios and Ricky Hatton in a boxing match (his glove did come out of the screen at me, but thankfully not his spittle).
Sky has found a way of delivering the signal through the existing HD TV boxes. But you will need the requisite glasses and a new 3D television set. Hyundai already makes such screens for Japan, where an experimental 3D channel started…