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ESPN Bodyslams the 3D TV Industry
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (June 13, 2013) - ESPN quietly announced yesterday that it will discontinue its 3D TV channel by year's end, perhaps bringing to an end an entire industry's effort to persuade Americans to watch 3D at home.

The sports channel launched ESPN 3D in 2010 with bold pronouncements that it would help revolutionize home viewing. However, sales of 3D TVs fell short of expectations -- and even worse -- consumers who did buy TVs that included 3D capability rarely used it.

Surveys indicated that people did not like the 3D goggles required to watch 3D TV and many added that 3D TV sports and movies were of little interest to them. ESPN officials tried to win hearts and minds with a variety of 3D programming that even included a professional knife thrower who
flung knives at the viewer (the camera.) But it was to no avail.

In its announcement, ESPN acknowledged that 3D TV has been a bust, saying it was ending ESPN 3D "due to limited viewer adoption of 3D services to the home."

The sports network bravely suggested it would resume 3D programming if consumers suddenly reversed their behavior and embraced the concept, but it added that it would now "experiment with things like (4K TV)..." 4K TV purports to offer a resolution four times greater than current 1080p TVs.

With ESPN 3D starting to close its doors, the small group of 3D viewers that exists will soon have fewer options to utilize their 3D sets. DIRECTV, which launched n3D a few years ago as a 24-hour 3D channel, now airs just occasional 3D programming. And the Sony/Discovery/Imax 3D channel, 3net, has had difficulty getting TV providers to carry it.

There are also 3D Blu-ray movies on the market for consumers who have 3D-capable Blu-ray players and there are some 3D programs available via streaming on Vudu, Netflix and Wealth TV. But that's about it.

Many in the industry have said over the last few years that if ESPN ever pulled the plug on 3D TV, that would be the format's final chapter. Today, it's hard to deny that statement.

Since TV makers stubbornly rolled out 3D sets more than three years ago, I have been a loud and frequent critic of 3D TV, saying that consumers simply didn't want it. On January 6, 2010, I even called industry officials who thought they could somehow convince Americans to accept it
"arrogant bastards." The term was a bit harsh, but I was trying to make it ultra-clear that the industry really needed to step back from what I viewed as an impending disaster.

So today, I won't gloat over ESPN's admission that 3D TV didn't work. I will just add that in the future, the CE and programming industries need to be more careful about what they think they can make consumers do. They can only make consumers do what consumers want to do.

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