With 3-D, Theaters are the New Sports Bars

Basketball fans were able to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 3-D in 55 theaters nationwide earlier this week, thanks to cooperation between NCAA broadcast rights holder CBS (s CBS) and LG Electronics, which wanted to use the event to get consumers excited in 3-D technology. CBS also broadcast last Saturday’s Final Four games in 3-D to about 20 theaters, according to a report from Broadcasting & Cable.

The network claims this to be a broadcast first, but CBS isn’t the only one using theaters as a venue for 3-D sports. MSG showed a hockey game in 3-D at the Theater at Madison Square Garden last month, and the Indian Premiere League has announced that it will beam its four final cricket matches to 3-D capable theaters across India. Efforts like these certainly make sense, given the fact that very few, if any, consumers have 3-D capable TV sets at home. But it also raises the question: Could theaters become the sports bars of the 3-D age?

Broadcasting & Cable reports that CBS was still struggling with some technical issues, like the audio being out of sync with the video, and some theaters losing the video feed completely. The placement of logos and infographics, which is obviously very important for sports fans trying to keep score, is also something that hasn’t been completely solved. The problem: 3-D action can interfere with a 2-D logo. Pay TV solutions provider NDS has been demoing the idea of 3-D logos but CBS apparently went with a different solution, simply darkening the screen behind the logo.

Other than that, reviewers seem to really like sports in 3-D, but there are doubts about whether many sports fans will shell out $3,000 or more for a 3-D capable TV, plus $150 per pair of glasses, any time soon. Theaters are great venues to fill that gap, especially since their huge screens and massive sound systems generally work much better than most home theater systems.

Of course, there’s a a parallel here: Back in the days when big flat screens used to be a luxury, as opposed to something you picked up at Costco while getting a five gallon jar of pickles, sports bars used to be the place to go to watch games with your buddies. Granted, the beer helped, too.

However, sports bars could have a hard time transitioning to 3-D, as the technology requires a different viewing angle than many of those screens mounted way up high can offer. And then there are the glasses. Which bar owner is going to hand out $150 dollar shutters to a guy ordering his third pitcher? Maybe popcorn and ice cream are more compatible with 3-D than hot wings and Jaeger.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Are We Putting the 3-D Cart Before the Horse? (subscription required)