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3D TV stumbles again as BBC presses pause

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The BBC has indefinitely suspended its 3D TV efforts. The British broadcaster said on Friday that audiences found the format “hassly” and simply weren’t taking it up.

This is quite a serious blow for 3D TV, particularly after U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN scrapped its own efforts less than a month ago. Both outfits cited a lack of enthusiasm among the viewing public and, given the emphasis on 4K rather than 3D at this year’s CES, it looks as if the set industry had already picked up on this.

It’s not as if the BBC didn’t give it a good shot. Last year’s Olympics coverage was broadcast in 3D — half of the 1.5 million U.K. households with capable sets watched that in 3D, but far fewer tuned into the rest of the BBC’s 3D content.

BBC 3D chief Kim Shillinglaw made quite an insightful comment about the scene, noting that people might be keener to watch 3D content in the cinema than at home. “I think when people watch TV they concentrate in a different way,” she said. “When people go to the cinema they go and are used to doing one thing — I think that’s one of the reasons that take up of 3D TV has been disappointing.”

Personally, I’m minded to go with Cracked on this one – “There was never a time in human history when 3D didn’t feel like getting your eyes punched by a swarm of hateful invisible pixies” – but at the same time I did feel there was value in watching The Hobbit in three dimensions. At the cinema, of course.

Shillinglaw did note that the BBC isn’t giving up entirely on 3D TV, and suggested that the recession might be having an impact on new set purchases. “I think the BBC will be having a wait-and-see,” she said. “I am not sure our job is to call the whole 3D race.”

The BBC doesn’t need to call it – its decision says it all, really.

7 Responses to “3D TV stumbles again as BBC presses pause”

  1. unclefishbits

    3D is a fun gimmick, but it shouldn’t guide your purchase decision. The sets with 3D are so cheap now, like Samsung’s remarkable set, it is basically a free add-on, as they promote the sets at discounts in lieu of their margins on the DVD’s being so high… you still can’t rent bluray 3D from netflix or redbox, etc. 95% of my watching on this new TV won’t involve 3D…. but I will tell you what: the exhiliration of watching those high end 3D summer blockbusters like Avatar, Life of Pi, or Prometheus in 3D is *SO MUCH FUN*. It’s a pretty awesome experience, and I would say it’s worth it for the rare purchase of a fun movie to watch when you are bored and just want to “tune out”. One thing I note about watching in 3D is that it immerses me, because I am not multitasking, reading a paper, etc. It provides total focus… and that’s a fun experience to have at home. The idea I would watch broadcasts in 3D seem silly, and expensive for the networks. But the movies meant to be viewed in that manner, it’s quite a treat. I have an active 3D glass TV set, and it’s phenomenal….

    but the idea you would purchase a TV to watch a boring crime drama or sitcom in 3D seems baffling, as much as the moment when I tried to watch Family Guy, a 2D animation, in 3D. LOL.

    It’s a wonderfully fun and affordable gimmick, and Samsung has just KILLED it with the tech. It’s about the same price, and if you like an errant jaunt into sci-fi blockbuster fun, it’s worth it. Otherwise, if you are trying to immerse yourself into the narrative of Seinfeld or Sports by being in 3D, skip it.

  2. Marty Focazio

    Well, 3D seems to be trotted out whenever the media and entertainment business is running low on new ideas, it seems to be generational.

    What’s interesting to me is that 4K is also being thrown around as some kind of “game changer” when it’s not physically possible for humans to see the difference. Derp.

  3. BBC broadcast Wimbledon in 3D, but decided not to make it available on Sky platform (which BY FAR has the biggest number of 3D subscribers) because they wouldn’t pay £20k for an EPG slot.

    So, perhaps the lack of uptake has something to do with making 3D available to people who don’t have 3D capability? But best to keep those £20k for severance payments to its staff – it’s a much better use of licence fee money.

  4. This is very interesting David. Personally I find 3D TV rather tiring to watch and it only seems to work well with sports and action films. It is intriguing that 3D was a big fad back in the day with 3D glasses being handed out at cinemas for various films including Jaws yet it never really caught on. Perhaps that should have been a lesson learned. For me personally I was interested in getting a 3D Sky box, but the amount it was going to cost in addition to the monthly increase meant I decided against it.

  5. P McGuire

    The BBC has never advertised its 3D enough I thought its 3D 100 final was fantastic I have a 3d tv but never have much to watch on it looking forward to doctor Who 3D please tell us when there is a 3D program then I can watch it

  6. I hadn’t heard the ESPN news before this. Makes me glad I didn’t bother taking 3D into account when buying a new TV last year since 3D sports was the main reason I was even considering it. I couldn’t care less about 3D movies.