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ESPN Pulls the Plug on 3D Channel

Broadcaster Cites 'Limited Viewer Adoption' as Decision Driver

3D TV in the U.S. suffered a body blow today as news broke that ESPN plans to shut down its three-year-old ESPN 3D network by year's end. ESPN blamed "limited viewer adoption of 3D services" for the move and said it would be recommitting 3D resources to other products and services.

"Nobody knows more about sports in 3D than ESPN," a company rep told StudioDaily in a statement via email, "and we will be ready to provide the service to fans if or when 3D does take off." For now, the company cited its ongoing experiments with Ultra HD tools in production for its HD channels as an example of advanced technological research.

ESPN 3D isn't the only 3D show in town, but it is probably the highest profile, with carriage on Bright House Networks, Comcast, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS. It's also expensive — ESPN is well-known for commanding highly lucrative affiliate fees from its cable providers — and AT&T U-Verse was the first to complain about low consumer demand for 3D sports, dumping the channel back in 2011. Channels like 3net on DirecTV, MSG 3D on Cablevision, and Xfinity 3D on Comcast will continue to fly the 3D flag in the U.S., differentiating those services from their competitors.

But it will be interesting to see if they're all still around at this time next year. 3D viewership is so minuscule, the AP noted last year, that Nielsen ratings have a hard time even measuring it.

Of course, ESPN's move only underscores what we've known for a while — certainly since this year's CES show, if not way before that. The driver in TV upgrades over the next few years is going to be high-resolution Ultra HD displays. Whether consumers will buy 4K displays with no established delivery method for 4K content remains to be seen, but the just-announced XBOX ONE and PlayStation 4 consoles should certainly be able to accommodate some kind of 4K playback, and it's no secret that Netflix is looking to start streaming 4K sooner rather than later.


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  • Liam

    Who else called it? I know I did!!

  • John Brune

    ….and the trend fades away!

  • jk

    3D is better for interactive gaming, NOT passive TV or Movie watching. 90% of the 3D movies are pointless to be in 3D. It is a gimmick for the occasional movie and that’s it. 3D wastes TV channel bandwidth and movie theater screens. Theaters offer a fraction of the movies these days because of needing 2D & 3D screens. I won’t miss ESPN 3D and I guess a whole lot of other people seem to agree.

  • Larry Towers

    Yet another technology no one needs except gearsluts! 4k will be the same. The irony here is that 3D makes the most sense for Sports/live action. For everything else it is even less compelling! Normal people want compelling content and, beyond a certain threshold, could care less about pixels!!! Maybe someone will realize that they should stop wasting money on bells and whistles and pay writers and creatives for better content!

  • mccann

    If 3d’s going out the door, when can I get a 3d tv for cheap?

    • james braselton

      hi there mccann your buying 3d tv with zero 3d content a have a 3d smart tv with 3d blu-ray player i have 3d movies and watch lots of 3net on direct tv i buy a 3d tv for 3d content

  • Anonymous

    I love my 3D and anyone that says 3D for movies is a waste…has no idea what they are talking about. I purchased my 55″ LG HD 3D TV a year and half ago. When I brought it home I did not have one 3D movies. But LG’s passive 2D to 3D conversion is pretty damn good…I put in the 2010 Star Trek and it blew me away! Now actual 3D movies are much better, but that does not mean the 2D to 3D is bad. Concerning pricing, when I purchased mine a year and a half ago I paid about $1700.00…now the LG 55″ 3D you can find for about $900.00. Well worth its price and I am a solid LG fan now.