The groundwork for 3DTV has been made, but its acceptance is still far from being a certainty, writes Julian Clover.
The 3D bug is now moving across Europe, and it’s catching, not only did UPC Nederland broadcast The Masters golf in 3D but it was also picked up by its Swiss sister company Cablecom.
UPC is deploying its Mediabox across its markets in Western and Eastern Europe, so it follows that 3D broadcasts could ultimately be available across its footprint, assuming the cablenet chooses to do so. We also know that Sky is running 3D in the UK and Germany, so it follows that Sky Italia might also choose to do so, though the Southern European satellite platform has to date been silent on its 3D plans.
Manufacturers are also making clear their 3D plans; Motorola this week announced the first set-top box to be effectively built from the ground up with 3D in mind. So far the vast majority of broadcasts have been made using boxes that have already been deployed, that doesn’t mean every single box, but in the case of BSkyB two million devices that are already being used for HD is a good starting point. Those two million devices represent a small proportion of the ‘HD Ready’ sets that have been sold, and the UK is Europe’s leading HD market!
It may have been possible to create yet a further tier of set-tops, but with the technology currently being deployed any investment can be sent in the direction of much needed content creation. There are those within the broadcast industry who moan that they have got very little out of the development of HD services, whereas the television manufacturers have done quite nicely, so here’s a way of making some sort of return.
What is emerging is a map of Europe where the majority of the operators are ready to go, though the number of channel launches that we have seen in the HD sector are still a long way off, and only now are the ‘middle-sized’ channels starting to consider an HD future.
Until there are sufficient volumes of content around we are looking at part-time channels or pay-per-view services rather than a 24/7 service. The Masters might have been an ideal vehicle for UPC, but for the UK the hole was out of bounds for Sky, because like the World Cup the coverage belonged to the BBC.
Movies such as Avatar are often given as the reason behind the current enthusiasm for 3DTV. But these movies might just as easily find themselves into packaged media – or downloads – than onto a television platform, further eroding the potential market.