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Satellite

DirecTV Ups the 3D Ante

2/14/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

DirecTV is the first pay TV provider
to launch 3net, the 24-hour 3DTV channel
from Discovery Communications, Sony
and IMAX — but only a few
thousand subscribers will be
able to watch it.

The satellite-TV operator
has aggressively jumped
into 3D, hoping to replicate
the marketing lead it established
in HD a few years ago,
before cable caught up. DirecTV
was widely expected to
be among the first providers
to carry 3net, which will feature
a mélange of documentaries,
nature programming,
movies and original series.

It’s early on for 3DTV and
it could take many years to become as widespread
as HD — if it ever does. Last year,
consumer-electronics companies reported
disappointing sales of 3D sets, which require
viewers to wear specialized glasses.

“I think the content and all the devices are
starting to come together,” 3net president and
CEO Tom Cosgrove said. “We believe in the
future of 3D.” He estimated up to 6 million
3DTVs will ship in 2011.

DirecTV has 19.1 million U.S. customers,
of which it says “tens of thousands” are
able to watch 3D. Starting in
April, 3net plans to start running
3D ads, which — despite
the miniscule viewer numbers
— have generated huge
interest among marketers,
Cosgrove said: “It’s a new medium
for Madison Avenue to
play with.”

On DirecTV, 3net was set to
go live on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 8
p.m. ET on channel 107 with
a primetime lineup of three
one-hour documentaries:
China Revealed, Into the Deep
3D
and Forgotten Planet. The
network promises to debut a new program every
night in February at 9 p.m., and is shooting
to deliver the industry’s largest library of
native 3D content by the end of 2011.

“[W]ith industry leaders like Discovery,
Sony and IMAX making a commitment to this
category, it is clear that 3D is here to stay and
is only going to get better,” DirecTV executive
vice president of content strategy and development
Derek Chang said in a statement.

Discovery, which is handling distribution
on behalf of the 3net joint venture, is continuing
to have carriage discussions with other
distributors, a company spokeswoman said.

DirecTV does not charge extra for access to
its 3D programming, which is available to any
of the satellite-TV operator’s customers who
subscribe to an HD package. The Discovery
spokeswoman declined to say whether 3net
affiliates are being offered the option to put
the channel on a premium tier.

DirecTV currently offers its own 24-hour
channel, n3D, which is sponsored by Panasonic,
as well as 3D movies on demand. It also
carries ESPN 3D, which was set to become a
24-hour channel on Feb. 14 — although the
vast majority of its lineup will consist of game
replays.

September