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Updated: Discovery To Launch 3-D Channel With Sony, IMAX

Ready for Shark Week in 3-D?

Discovery Communications will team up with Sony Pictures and Canada's IMAX to launch a 24/7 linear 3-D channel in the U.S. in 2011, the companies announced Tuesday.

The three companies will own equal stakes in the channel. The content on the channel will include IMAX and Sony films in 3-D, Discovery specials and shows, and programming from other producers. The Discovery programming has yet to be determined, but the Discovery Channel has previously featured a 3-D broadcast of its Shark Week franchise.

"Discovery's business strategy has always focused on delivering groundbreaking content through new platforms, including the first suite of digital channels launched in 1996 and the first 24/7 basic cable HD channel in 2002," Discovery founder and chairman John Hendricks said in a statement. "Now, as Discovery celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010 as the world leader in satisfying curiosity and bringing audiences the most realistic viewing experience, we continue to change the face of television with the launch of the first-ever 24/7 dedicated 3D television network."

Discovery, Sony, through its U.S. affiliate, Sony Corporation of America, and IMAX have targeted 2011 to launch the as-yet-unnamed channel in the U.S. with "a goal of driving consumer adoption of 3-D televisions and giving the network long-term leadership in the 3-D home marketplace," the companies said. The companies said they also will explore international distribution opportunities in selected markets.

Earlier Tuesday, ESPN announced plans to launch a 3-D channel in June 2010, with at least 85 live 3-D events the first year, timed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off on June 11.

The new Discovery/Sony/IMAX 3D network will feature programming from
genres that lend themselves to 3-D, including movies, natural history, space,
exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology and children's programming from Discovery, Sony Pictures
Entertainment, IMAX and other providers.

The partnership was announced to coincide with the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Recent IMAX films in 3-D include Avatar 3-D, Disney's A Christmas Carol in 3D, Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Under the Sea 3D; and Sony's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. IMAX plans to release Disney's Toy Story 3 in 3-D June 2010.

Under the terms of the partnership, Discovery will provide network services, including affiliate sales and technical support functions, as well as 3D television rights to Discovery content and cross-promotion across its portfolio of 13 U.S. television networks.

Sony, for its part, will provide advertising/sponsorship sales support, and will seek to license television rights to current and future 3-D feature films, music-related 3-D content and game-related 3-D content, while providing cross-promotion at retail stores. IMAX will license television rights to future 3-D films, provide promotion through its owned-and-operated movie theaters across the U.S., and contribute a suite of proprietary and patented image enhancement and 3-D technologies.

Governance of the joint venture will be handled by a board of directors comprised of members from each of the three companies, with the day-to-day operations run by a separate staff and management team that will report to the board. The companies said they have initiated a search for the venture's general manager.

Specific financial terms of the venture were not disclosed. The companies have scheduled a press conference call Tuesday at 3:15 PM (ET) with Hendricks, Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav, Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer and IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond.