Notes from the Mediascape: 3D TV set to debut in US this year

Although a Canadian debut of the new tech is hypothetical at this point, the promise of a 3D TV - and advertising - experience has ignited both skepticism and excitement in the Canadian mediascape.

As far as exciting Consumer Electronics Show tech debuts go, 3D TVs are generating their share of buzz in Las Vegas this year, as is the announcement yesterday that two 3D TV networks are on the horizon for US cable subscribers.

The new networks – the first from ESPN and the second a joint venture between Sony, Discovery Communications and Mississauga-based IMAX Corp – will debut this summer and January 2011, respectively. The announcement was made Tuesday at CES, and a range of 3D TVs and 3D-capable devices are also expected to be unveiled over the course of the show.

As compelling as the thought of 3D ads may be to some – particularly for World Cup soccer fans watching the game in 3D, as promised by ESPN – the possibility of this type of immersive advertising doesn’t quite have everyone jumping for joy yet.

Nick Barbuto, director of interactive solutions, Cossette Communications, said he’s been down this road before…with HDTV.

‘It’s not very sexy to me, to be honest,’ Barbuto tells MiC. ‘It’s a little like what we went through with HDTV: it’s an incrementally better experience, but it’s not revolutionary.

‘It’s also not immediately applicable – you still need something additional to see it, like glasses,’ he continues. ‘The reality versus the promise is one of the holdbacks for me.’

Barbuto adds that there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done before 3D advertising becomes attractive to clients. One of the biggies is consumer acceptance. There are few 3D sets currently available and many consumers are still upgrading, or have just upgraded to, high-definition TVs.

Additionally, Barbuto says, the investment of specialized equipment advertisers need to adopt the 3D format could be cost-prohibitive, unless the viewers are there to justify the expense.

‘When it comes to the extra resources you need and the extra cost, where are we going to find the critical mass to make this worthwhile? We have to wait for the natural lag between the introduction of 3D TV and common consumer adoption of technology to play itself out.’

Paul Lewis, president and general manager of Discovery Channel Canada, is more optimistic. Although he admits there are no specific plans at the moment to bring 3D TV to Canada, he feels the public and commercial adoption of the new technology will involve a shorter timeline than that of even HDTV.

‘I think it’ll mirror very much what happened on the HD side,’ Lewis tells MiC. ‘It will immediately appeal to high-end users, who will adopt it early. And a lot of technology-based advertisers will also position themselves to be part of the first wave.’