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Is Sky making 3D work?

Friday, July 12th 2013 by Cable.co.uk
Sky seems to be enjoying more success in 3D TV than other broadcasters
Sky seems to be enjoying more success in 3D TV than other broadcasters.

As a viewing technology for the mass market, 3D TV is widely seen as a failure. 

When the first affordable 3D television sets went on sale, industry commentators confidently predicted that consumers would leap at the chance to watch their favourite shows in three-dimensional glory. 

But the reality has been a little different; although around 1.5 million UK households own a 3D TV, audience numbers have been almost uniformly disappointing, with less than five per cent of potential viewers choosing to watch the Christmas 2012 Queen's Speech in 3D. The London 2012 Opening Ceremony, meanwhile, attracted around half of 3D TV owners.

It seems that for the BBC and ESPN, enough is enough. The BBC recently revealed that new 3D content development will be put on hold for three years, while ESPN will be ditching its 3D production arm in the US before the end of 2013.

Reports of the demise of 3D have been widespread, to the extent that some have almost seemed to revel in the fact that the technology hasn't proved as popular as expected.

One broadcaster, however, appears to be bucking this trend. Sky has just enjoyed its most successful quarter for 3D TV, with more than half a million customers signing up to watch three-dimensional programming as of last week.

So what has Sky done differently? John Cassy, Director of Sky 3D, puts it down to the fact that the company is both a content producer and a TV platform. 

As a result, Sky values three-dimensional programming as a means to attract new subscribers and retain existing ones, rather than simply comparing viewing figures to 2D content and judging it to be a failure.

This approach appears to be working. Research from the pay TV giant shows that Sky 3D viewers are among the company's most satisfied customers, with sports, movies and natural history shows going down particularly well.

Furthermore, Mr Cassy says Sky is realistic about the potential of 3D. The company acknowledges that three-dimensional viewing isn't for everyone and is only likely to appeal for big events - like golf's Ryder Cup or 3D movie premieres such as The Amazing Spider-Man.

It seems the wider industry could do with following Sky's lead if 3D is to stand a chance.

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