London Olympics To Go for 3D Gold?

It is increasingly appearing as if viewers of the London 2012 Olympics will have a chance to catch at least some of the action in 3D. Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) is in final negotiations to make a 3D Olympics feed available to rightsholders when the games begin next July 27.

Although details will not be available until at least next month, the anticipated offering could be a key driver for 3D in the UK, the U.S., and beyond. The BBC, for example, had a successful 3D Wimbledon broadcast this summer and plans to replicate it next year at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. With the Olympics a little more than two weeks after Wimbledon, the summer of 2012 could be the summer of 3D in the UK.

But Danielle Nagler, head of BBC HD and 3D, says the risk for 2012 is that, with 28 streams of HD content, both BBC One HD and BBC HD will be busy delivering HD content. During Wimbledon, BBC HD was available for the 3D broadcast while BBC One delivered the HD version to viewers.

“We’re mindful that 8.5 million people have HD,” she says. “That’s a lot more people than, even with spectacular growth by next summer, 3D will have.”

And whether U.S. Olympics fans will be able to see the Games in 3D also remains to be seen. To date, NBC Sports is the only major sports network that hasn’t experimented with 3D. Comcast, however, played a key role in the first 3D broadcast of The Masters golf tournament in 2010, and 3D is a priority for cable operators looking to differentiate their service from competitors like DIRECTV, which is the leading distributor of 3D content in the market.

While rights and distribution deals get sorted out, there is some evidence that the Games in 3D could be a driver in 3D-set sales. Earlier this year, LG Electronics surveyed 2,000 UK consumers and found that 37% of Britons say that the 2012 Olympics in 3D would make them consider buying a 3D-capable TV set. More than half the respondents said their next TV purchase would be 3D-capable.


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