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CES 2010: DirecTV Set To Launch Trio Of 3D Channels

Keeping the 3DTV hype machine on high, DirecTV announced plans to launch three 3D channels in June 2010 featuring movies, sports and other content and has signed a deal with Panasonic to be the exclusive sponsor of the services.

DirecTV, calling 3D "the next frontier of television entertainment," said its HD subscribers will receive a free software upgrade that will enable them to have access to three dedicated 3D channels through compatible 3D television sets, such as Panasonic's Viera Full HD 3D TVs.

"We led the way with HD and we are excited to do the same with 3D," DirecTV Entertainment executive vice president Eric Shanks said in a statement.

DirecTV and Panasonic said they will "leverage current relationships" with programming partners and movie studios to procure new and existing 3D content. DirecTV is currently working with AEG/AEG Digital Media, CBS, Fox Sports/FSN, Golden Boy Promotions, HDNet, MTV, NBC Universal and Turner Broadcasting System, to develop additional 3D programming that will debut in 2010 and 2011.

At launch, DirecTV will offer a 24-hour, 3D pay-per-view channel focused on movies, documentaries and other programming; a 24-hour, 3D video-on-demand channel; and a free 3D "sampler demo channel," featuring event programming such as sports, music and other content.

The satellite provider did not announce pricing for the PPV and VOD services.

"Adding the most HD channels to our lineup gave customers a viewing experience that was incredibly lifelike; adding 3D to the mix will take that one step further allowing them to become part of the cast as the picture comes to life in their living rooms," Shanks said.

Panasonic will be the exclusive presenting sponsor of DirecTV's new HD 3D channels, which will feature the CE manufacturer's branding for a one-year period. DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said the operator's 3D lineup will be compatible with 3DTVs from Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Sony.

The two companies announced the launch at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, where a slew of 3DTVs from Panasonic, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sony and other manufacturers will be on display.

Meanwhile, DirecTV also announced it is working with 3D technology vendor RealD to deliver high-definition 3D movies and TV programming to subscribers. The satellite operator said content providers will be able use RealD tools to format their 3D content; the RealD-formatted 3D content is compatible with DirecTV's current HD satellite broadcast and on-demand systems and works with its existing HD set-top boxes.

As part of the agreement, RealD has granted DirecTV a license to use the RealD Format and associated 3D technology patents.

"We look forward to working with RealD and our programming providers to deliver 3D content later this year to owners of 3D-capable TV's -- no new set-top boxes will be required," DirecTV chief technology officer Romulo Pontual said.

The RealD format uses a side-by-side 3D formatting technology to use channels in the existing HD broadcast infrastructure. DirecTV has chosen to use the side-by-side method as its primary method of delivering 3D content, citing its ability to deliver high-quality progressive and interlaced video over existing infrastructure.

Earlier this week, both ESPN announced plans to deliver a 3D event network in June, to premiere with the World Cup in South Africa, and Discovery Communications -- in a venture with Sony and IMAX -- said it is eyeing a 2011 launch for a new 24-hour linear 3D HD channel.

DirecTV is "looking forward to having conversations with the programming community, including ESPN and the newly formed Discovery/Sony/Imax JV," Mercer said.

At CES, Panasonic will be showing its Viera televisions and home theater systems tuned to a dedicated DirecTV 3D channel with content from Avatar, the James Cameron blockbuster, as well as other sports, entertainment, documentary and music footage at its booth.

"Panasonic has been developing 3D standards for television for several years, and we believe it represents a fundamentally new experience in home entertainment because it adds the immersive nature of real life," said Yoshi Yamada, chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America. "Our relationship with DirecTV is a core component of our 'end-to-end' strategy of building out an entire 3D entertainment ecosystem."

Word of DirecTV's plans to announce a 3D channel was reported last week by blog site