Hill Wary of 3D Costs

Considered the doyenne of sports broadcasting, David Hill, the chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Television Group in the US, is a voice that the industry listens to. At the moment he is not happy about the economics of 3D and he is making his opinions known.

"As a producer I think 3D is fabulous, but as an executive I hate it because we still haven't finished paying for HD," says Hill. He says the mandated move to HD in the US was "one of the greatest tragedies of our times" because the economics of HD for broadcasters don't add up.

"The set manufacturers, the equipment manufacturers, [they] all made money off of HD and I am still having to put out millions and millions of dollars, which means I can't do programme innovation," Hill claims.

"I can't give people raises, I can't employ any more people. I can't do the stuff on the internet that I want," complains Hill. "Why? Because there is this big truckload of money departing to the Sonys and the Panavisions and the people that make the equipment and the wires for HD."

Hill showed a stunning 3D tape of sports at his keynote at IBC on Thursday that included boxing, NASCAR and NFL football. The problem is that he can't ask the advertisers to pay double for these improved TV pictures. "What are advertisers going to do if I ask them to pay double for 3D pictures? They are going to say this," he said, making what can best be described as a universal gesture of disapproval. Underlining his point, he added: "We are not a public service broadcaster. We are in this for the dough," Hill said.

"3D is a case of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," said Hill. "Let me tell you, the broadcasting industry will not be investing in 3D technology until we know if we are going to be reimbursed one way or the other. I am only talking about the part of the broadcasting industry that I control but if the others have any sense they will say exactly the same thing.

"We are still getting over the cost of HD. It cost us a fortune and not just in our trucks but in our internal distribution and infrastructure," says Hill. "A bunch of people made money on HD, but not us." He says that he is not planning on upgrading his LA studio to HD because it will cost $18 million. "I'm not going to do it."

Hill said that 3D must avoid the pitfalls of HD production where even after several years of HD transmissions it is still difficult to make an HD broadcast "bulletproof".

Hill gave three criteria that are needed for 3D to work for broadcasters: a common standard, a way to recompense broadcasters for the new financial outlay and making the 3D broadcast system technically "watertight".

Hill admits he doesn't know what the revenue model is for 3D: "I want someone to come into my office and write a bloody big cheque," he said. But he suspects one revenue stream is going to be around the 3D glasses themselves.

"Tommy Hilfiger is going to make some cool 3D glasses so that when a guy asks a girl out on a date he's not wearing these iron-welding-looking glasses. That's at least one revenue model."

"3D is going to be fantastic, if the sums can be done," Hill concludes.

Source: IBC E-Daily