Some technologies enjoy a huge amount of initial hype and then flame out. That’s a bummer for early adopters, who then need a good technology-recycling plan. At a session at TelcoTV last week, Bryan Burns, vice president/Strategic Business Planning with ESPN, used his allotted time at a general session to talk about the inevitable ascension of 3D TV. But is this technology really going mainstream, or will that 3D capability built into some TVs go to waste?
Since announcing ESPN 3D at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the network has telecast more than 163 live events. "Utilizing technology to serve sports fans is what we do,” said Burns. "As often happens, new technology seeks out sports. That’s happened again."
That reminds me of the very first story I wrote for a cable trade publication back in 1998. It was about ESPN’s use of a computer-generated "1st-and-Ten line" for national football games. That sport would be completely impossible for me to understand if it weren’t for the virtual fluorescent yellow or orange line, now used by all the sports networks.
Burns cited ESPN’s track record with HD as the model 3D is likely to follow: "In 2002, we said we were going to launch ESPN in HD. Nobody even owned a HD set at that time. Will history repeat itself for 3D TV? The price differential (of a TV set) from HD to 3D is modest, just a couple of hundred dollars."
But there are some bumps in the road. "I recently went into an (electronics) store," he said, "and it was a virtual secret which TVs were 3D." And retail associates aren’t the only ones who seem to have lost their enthusiasm. There are hardly any analyst reports on the topic, either.
IHS, a research group that churns out press releases like hotcakes, last issued announcements about 3D this past summer. A July release said U.S. consumers purchased an estimated 1.75 million Blu-ray Disc 3-D (BD3D) discs at retail during the format’s first 12 months on the market, and they brought home another 1.7 million units as part of hardware/software bundling deals, bringing the total to 3.5 million discs.
But that brings up another technology I’ve been wondering about lately: Blu-ray. ESPN’s Burns said of Blu-ray players: "The price is dropping through the floor." Hmmm. Is that a good sign or a bad sign for Blu-ray technology?
Those who have Blu-ray players seem happy with them. CT‘s Senior Technology Editor Ron Hranac has had a Blu-ray player for about three years and says, "Pictures from Blu-ray discs are indeed better, since they are 1080P. Shortly after getting our HD set, a friend who already had a 720P HD set came over. I showed him a few scenes from the BBC/Discovery Channel Planet Earth Blu-ray discs in 1080P, and he was blown away. It wasn’t too long before he got his own Blu-ray player."?
And Hranac points out that content isn’t a problem because most movies these days are released simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray, and older movies are being converted to Blu-ray.?
Nevertheless, it’s my completely unscientific observation that consumers haven’t embraced Blu-ray en masse. Perhaps with streaming of movies becoming so popular, physical discs of any kind are beginning to seem a bit old-fashioned.
Linda Hardesty is associate editor at Communications Technology. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.