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
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
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
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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