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ESPN 3D to Test Market for 3D Sports Programming

ESPN 3D Logo

Hey sports fans! Accessorizing for the big game with team jerseys, cheeseheads, lucky boxers, and indoor cleats is going to get that much harder, because now you’ll have to work in 3D glasses: Disney’s mammoth ESPN network of sports channels has announced it plans to unveil the first 3D cable network on June 11, 2010, and is committing to showing a minimum of 85 live sporting events during the network’s first year. ESPN has already lined up the first FIFA World Cup match, the 2011 BCS National Championship game, a ton of college basketball and football, the Summer X Games, and at least a couple dozen World Cup matches, and the network plans to slot more events as they go.

“ESPN’s commitment to 3-D is a win for fans and our business partners,” ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said in a statement. “ESPN 3D marries great content with new technology to enhance the fan’s viewing experience and puts ESPN at the forefront of the next big advance for TV viewing.”

ESPN 3D camera

ESPN has played around with 3D broadcasts in the past, and showed an Ohio State/USC football game in theaters. However, the network’s new initiative is a complete network…and for viewers to see it, their cable or satellite operators will have to make room in their offerings for the channel. And that channel will be dark when there’s no 3D event taking place, meaning some operators may seek to treat it like a pay-per-view operation. At the outset, the network will not offer reruns of 3D events, although as the network accumulates 3D content it’s hard to imagine ESPN just sitting on it if there’s any value in rebroadcast.

Views will need 3D-capable HDTVs and, yes, 3D glasses to view the content properly. Depending on a customer’s cable or satellite operator, viewers may also need new equipment to handle the 3D video feeds.