Fresh from the success of its first 3D broadcasts, this weekend’s Wimbledon tennis championships, the BBC now faces a decision on how to transmit any 3D coverage of the 2012 Olympics.
There remain no plans for the BBC to launch a dedicated 3D channel, though Danielle Nagler, the BBC’s head of BBC HD and 3D, admitted she had originally said the BBC would not consider doing sport. When it came to the Olympics, Nagler said it was not currently clear what content would be available and the BBC would have to look at its value to UK audiences – despite being held in London the BBC is not the host broadcaster, a role taken by Olympic Broadcasting Services.
“In 2D we get feeds from absolutely everything going on around the Olympics and we can configure that into whatever the UK audience is interested in. Whatever the final 3D offer that emerges it will clearly be more limited and we have to consider where we could accommodate that in terms of our broadcast offer and the appear that will have.”
The Wimbledon 3D broadcast was made on the BBC HD channel, while the regular high definition transmission continued over BBC One HD.
“We’re lucky that we can accommodate these broadcasters, because BBC One is showing it in HD, so we’re not taking it away from the audience. The risk for 2012 is that we will have 28 streams in HD available to the UK audience, so that’s quite a lot of HD. Even assuming some of that at anyone time is not of interest to UK audiences we are assuming BBC One HD and BBC HD will be busy with HD content. We’re mindful that 8.5 million people have HD… that’s a lot more people that even with spectacular growth by next summer 3D will have”.
The BBC is currently running a series of tests involving the bandwidth used for the online streaming of content.
3D images from Wimbledon became available after agreement was reached between the All England Club and Sony Professional. It meant that the BBC as host broadcaster and production partner was able to offer 3D pictures to its audience for the first time.
Nagler said that the involvement of Sony was a consideration of the BBC’s financial position. “At this point in 3D’s development how much resource, be that financial resource or people, should we committed to 3D against the other areas that the BBC could be working on. It’s important that we do some experiments since we want to understand where the mainstream audience is. It doesn’t mean we should be devoting large amounts of money to 3D at the extent other things.
“3D television is in its very early days and while we want to explore it on behalf of the viewer there are many other uses of licence fee funds that can reach many millions more people”.
The free-to-air signals were made available over Sky, Freesat, Freeview and cable without any cost to the viewer. It is also believed to have been the world’s first permanent 3D transmission on DTT.