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ESPN to Launch 3D Network in 2010

With the television industry buzzing over the possibilities of bringing 3D HD pictures to the living room as it heads to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, cable sports giant ESPN has gotten a jump on the field by announcing that it will launch a 3D television network, ESPN 3D, this year.

The 3D network, which ESPN calls the industry's first (there may be a European satellite operator that claims otherwise), will feature a minimum of 85 live sporting events in its first year, starting with the first 2010 FIFA World Cup match on June 11 featuring South Africa vs. Mexico. Other events to be produced in 3D include up to 25 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, Summer X Games, college basketball, and college football, which will include the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Ariz., January 10, 2011. ESPN, which did not provide any details over which pay-TV operators would carry the service, said additional events will be announced at a later date.

ESPN's 3D push should boost the prospects for new 3D HD TV sets that consumer electronics manufacturers will be showing at CES this week and selling at retail later this year. There has already been speculation that DirecTV will use a new satellite to launch a 3D network, though DirecTV hasn't announced any such plans.

"ESPN's commitment to 3D is a win for fans and our business partners," said George Bodenheimer, Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, and President, ESPN and ABC Sports, in a statement. "ESPN 3D marries great content with new technology to enhance the fan's viewing experience and puts ESPN at the forefront of the next big advance for TV viewing."

"This will be a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3D television sets and afford opportunities for our affiliates to create value through new product offerings, and our advertisers, who want fresh sponsorship opportunities," added Sean Bratches, ESPN executive vice president of sales and marketing.

ESPN has been testing 3D for more than two years, and produced the USC vs. OSU college football game last fall using a new 3D production truck from NEP Supershooters. ESPN says it has developed best practices for utilizing the technology in live game applications which have provided it the ability to streamline workflow operations, adjust 3D camera positioning, test transmission and gauge fan reaction to a 3D telecast versus a traditional telecast.