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BBC Shelves 3D TV Programming

BBC Follows ESPN's Lead as FIFA Reconsiders World Cup Plans

BBC head of 3D Kim Shillinglaw says the Beeb will put 3D program development on hold at the end of 2013, with no plans to resume until 2017.

In an interview with RadioTimes.com, Shillinglaw said the three-year hiatus comes after a two-year pilot program for 3D in which the BBC broadcast shows including last year's Wimbledon finals and the Olympics in stereo 3D. According to RadioTimes.com, only about half of the U.K.'s 3D TV sets tuned in to the opening ceremonies of last summer's Olympics. Interest in other shows was lower, with Christmas broadcasts of other popular programs thought to draw only 1 in 20 3D-enabled viewers.

The final programs to be broadcast in 3D by the BBC will be the upcoming Doctor Who anniversary special in November and the final episodes of nature documentary series Hidden Kingdom. "After that, we will see what happens when the recession ends and there may be more take up of sets," Shillinglaw told the publication. "But I think the BBC will be having a wait and see. It's the right time for a good old pause."

Just as ESPN's decision to shut down ESPN 3D is not quite the death knell for 3D in the U.S., the BBC's decision does not terminate all 3D broadcasting in Great Britain. BSkyB has put a serious push behind 3D programming with its Sky 3D channel that launched in April 2010. Sky 3D recently re-upped on its partnership with Sir David Attenborough through Colossus Productions (a joint venture for 3D programming between Sky 3D and Atlantic Productions) which is producing David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Adventure for air later this year and the two-part Conquest of the Skies for broadcast late in 2014.

But the big news about 3DTV this year has been bad, indicating a contracting market for stereo 3D production. The Associated Press reporting last month that FIFA is even considering abandoning plans to abandon 3D broadcasts of the World Cup in 2014. FIFA Director of Television Niclas Ericson noted that "several broadcasters" have expressed interest in broadcasting Cup games in 3D, but said the costs of providing 3D feeds are being reviewed. "Whether this is temporary and this will come back in a few years in a new way we don't know," said Ericson, perhaps referring to hopes that a new wave of high-quality glasses-free 3D TV technology will give the format a shot in the arm.

5 Comments

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  • Anonymous

    Disappointing, but not surprising. The technology is not readily available (as in it still costs too much…) The industry should not give up on 3D, the pricing should soon level out for most folks to be able to obtain them.

  • John Brune

    This is great news. 3D will always be looked upon as a way of sucking more money out of consumers. It shouldn’t cost more to view at a theatre and it shouldn’t cost more to have on television. They can work all that out in the background and make 3D more affordable and more practical than it is. Post converting movies at great expense and causing great delay of final release is the most absurd practice I’ve seen yet!

  • Larry Towers

    3d is rightfully looked upon as a gimmick. People like the novelty for a few minutes then get tired of it fast. This isn’t a matter of expense. 3d is not a good experience for most viewers. This is not about technology, it is about biology. 3d information is preprocessed in the visual cortex, in real life much of that Information is not needed and is thrown away. 3d programming forces incorrect information upon viewers and only serves as a distraction to the visual information they want.

  • Tony Ferrelli

    Good riddance, and hopefully it is the last time the 3D gimmick virus mutates and infects the general public. With this money leeching gimmick out of the way, perhaps studios can concentrate making decent movies instead of ‘Blue Pocahontas in 3D’ and manufacturers can concentrate on real IN-NO-VAY-SHUN.

  • R Travis

    The anti-3D sentiment is ignorant nonsense. Stereo 3D imaging was a normal and natural part of photography for the first 5 or 6 decades of the medium. It was valid then, as it is valid today.

    It is a gimmick only when used as a gimmick — which is very often, as Hollywood is want to do. But, to confuse a flawed application with an intrinsic flaw of the medium is not only an extremely short- and narrow-sighted viewpoint, it ain’t even true.

    Along with the technical flaws of the past (which have been minimized today), the misapplication of 3D has been and always will be its major shortcoming.

    There is an aesthetic nature to 3D (though some are blind to it), but with limited application. However it is to be used, just don’t try to tell the artist what to do.

    By the way, “high-quality glasses-free 3D TV technology” for an audience without a restrictive sweet spot, isn’t going to happen. The physics doesn’t allow it.