Get ready for the consumer launch of 3DTV. It has everything, apart from enough content and equipment. Julian Clover dons the specs.
It’s a big week for stereoscopic television, Sky finally launches its 3D channel as a consumer proposition, its Italian counterpart taking advantage of BSkyB’s 3D coverage of The Ryder Cup. Virgin Media, Mediaset and Sky Deutschland also have 3D services up and running this weekend and beyond.
How many people will actually be watching the programmes is another matter. Four years after the launch of Sky’s HD services there are three million subscribers out of an installed base just shy of ten million. We know those same HD boxes are capable of decoding 3D, but the transmission is still dependent on the subscriber having a suitable 3DTV.
The manufacturers have 3D down as their latest means to sell us a new television set, except of course that many of us have already bought our new TV set. Maybe this happened when the HD Ready sets were introduced, or perhaps the Full HD, whatever that was, and even then it has only been possible to actually buy a set capable of receiving HD without an additional decoder for all but a few months.
Samsung, and other manufacturers, are beginning to switch their ranges so that 3DTV becomes standard. But it will take time for the technology to make its way through the replacement cycle.
At last week’s CTAM EuroSummit event in Budapest there were grumbles from the operators. The implication was that the initial support that had come from the manufacturing sector was no longer there. Could this be true? When you see or hear an advertisement for a new television, so often it promotes the ability to receive non-existent 3D programmes in favour of the alternate capability of connectivity with the internet and other devices within the home.
The operators say the manufacturers are changing their tune, away from 3D, and giving them a double blow by then promoting connected TV.
Then there is the problem of content. The charge here is that the supply of sports content has, largely, dried up since the World Cup and that the movie studios are withholding content beyond the regular windows and when they are released they are doing so at an additional premium. Much of the six-hour new weekly content on Sky will be produced by the broadcaster itself.
A short while ago there was on British television a hilarious ad for, I think, a Blu-ray player that allowed you to watch 3D content, complete with one of those disclaimer captions explaining that although Avatar was being used to promote the product it wasn’t actually possible to use the device to watch the movie in 3D.