While ESPN 3D has not been attracting the kind of eyeballs the network or their advertisers really like to see, the network has decided to soldier on with full support for the linear channel through 2011. While it’s good to see them stepping up to the plate and putting their money where their mouth is, I really question the viability of total 3D channels even five years from now. Sports are by their very nature social experiences, and while many in the industry are convinced that they will once again drive technology like HDTV, I’m very skeptical. The glasses block you off from your buddies, less than optimal viewing angles kill the illusion, and no one wants to be at a party with everyone having expensive sunglasses on when there’s beer to ruin them. Golf and tennis? Much more solitary and quiet viewing sports that also are shot at good angles for 3D, but they don’t carry the big audiences you need to support 3D’s bills.When even the world’s largest TV fails to enthrall the crowd, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Given that even the execs haven’t a clue how to market it, I think A VOD channel, aimed at more of a “let’s see that again…..in 3D!” vibe would make a lot more sense in the current market place. Watching in 3D is most often a choice based on merit. Do I want to watch Avatar in 3D? Most definitely. Cats and Dogs? Not so much. We’ll see how things play out, but I think ESPN will be tossing some Hail Mary’s come 2012