The first-ever 3D sports network will have at least one more year of life on the growing number of 3D television sets in U.S. living rooms, as Sony Electronics has extended its official sponsorship of ESPN 3D for another calendar year. Sony Director of 3D Business Development Rob Willox broke the news today at SVG’s 3D & Beyond Summit in New York.
“I’m very proud to announce that we’re going to sponsor ESPN 3D for another year,” he said. “We’ve signed on to do the X Games, the BCS Championship, NBA basketball, and more. It’s a relationship that we’re very proud of.”
In addition to the Summer and Winter X Games, the BCS Championship Game and NBA Basketball, ESPN 3D will also produce coverage for the MLB Home Run Derby in July, ESPN coordinating producer Phil Orlins confirmed at the event.
ESPN 3D launched in June 2010 with the FIFA World Cup and became a 24/7 network on Feb. 14 2011. When it completes its first calendar year next month, the network will have produced more than 100 live sports events, a hefty boost over the minimum of 85 that ESPN promised when it announced the 3D network in January 2010 at CES.
ESPN 3D debuted with 2010 FIFA World Cup telecasts throughout June and July — produced by Host Broadcast Services — before undertaking its first in-house 3D productions with the MLB Home Run Derby and Summer X Games in Los Angeles. Using Sony 3D camera rigs, ESPN took to the road, producing college football (including the BCS Championship game) and basketball (including the Big East Tournament), boxing, and The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. ESPN 3D also delivered several NBA games throughout the season and is currently in the midst of a playoff run that will include every game of the NBA Finals.
The network launched with carriage from DIRECTV, Comcast, and AT&T U-verse and has since engineered deals with Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS.
According to ESPN, new technologies and strategies have significantly cut down on the costs of 3D production over the past year. Earlier this year, ESPN 3D produced a boxing match and an NBA game that used a single truck for both the 2D and 3D productions – the economic Holy Grail for 3D programming. However, a 3D network that usually requires independent side-by-side 2D and 3D productions remains a pricey venture requiring financial backing from sponsors like Sony.
Asked whether he thought 3D sports production would soon be a self-supporting business and no longer require a sponsor or financial backer, Willox expressed reservations.
“I don’t see the model changing anytime soon,” he said. “I have to admire ESPN sending one truck to do both 2D and 3D [productions] for boxing and basketball, but a sport like football is a very different animal. It will be interesting to see if we can harmonize [2D and 3D] into one production. The short answer is that it is going to take some time and it is going to take a sponsorship to get there.”
Stay tuned for more coverage from SVG’s 3D & Beyond Summit in Friday’s SVG Insider newsletter.