BSkyB Denies 3DTV Format War

BSkyB denies suggestions that its 3DTV service will ferment a standards war, instead encouraging broadcasters to launch 3D services using its platform.

"There's no sense to any suggestion that we don't think standards are important," said Gerry O'Sullivan Sky's director of strategic product development. "In fact we are using one of the most common standards - MPEG-4 - which is the way in which most of the world's HDTV is delivered. Other broadcasters should join with us. We have pioneered HD and DVRs and we make no apology for innovating again."

O'Sullivan continued: "Sky is taking a lead here. We've created some fantastic content to huge acclaim just as we did with HD. Then we took risks and we're doing so again. The alternative is to sit back and still be waiting for 3D to happen ten years from now."

In Sky's model the left and right images are squeezed side-by-side into a single HD frame and transmitted by satellite via Sky+ HD boxes to select 3D Ready TVs where the images are re-interlaced and viewed with polarised glasses.

The BBC and ITV favour an implementation that uses 1080p resolution for both eyes, and crucially, that allows existing HD viewers to see the same pictures in 2D. This is likely to require that consumer's purchase new set-top boxes.

Sky, said O'Sullivan, has moved from an R&D phase to trial phases and is moving toward a launch phase for its 3DTV service. It is working with TV set manufacturers to bring 3DTVs compatible with Sky's system to the UK market next year. Currently only JVC and Hyundai sets are available. It is also talking with Hollywood studios to ensure that Sky can show 3D movies on its service from launch.

"We are totally focused on getting content," he said. "There must be some content. We are all learning what are the most efficient ways of producing 3D at the same time as conventional HD programming. We want to learn how to create 3DTV with minimal effort and we want to learn what works when we put this in front of consumers."

Sky's latest trial is a simultaneous 3D and 2D production for a single programme in the Sky 1 series Noel's Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old?.

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe