YES, DirecTV Team on 3D

DirecTV is launching four 3D channels, including ESPN 3D, in June, and had already said it will air the 2010 All-Star Game in 3D, in partnership with Fox Sports. Wednesday it announced that it will team with YES Network and FSN Northwest to present the first-ever Major League Baseball telecasts in 3D on Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11 when the New York Yankees take on the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field in Seattle.

DirecTV and Panasonic will be presenting sponsors of the two 3D telecasts, which will be made available to DirecTV HD customers who have 3D TV sets and live within the YES "home team footprint," which includes all of New York State and Connecticut, north and central New Jersey, and northeast Pennsylvania. The 3D telecasts will also air live within the FSN Northwest footprint, including the entire states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Montana and Idaho.

"We're extremely excited to enter into this partnership with DirecTV," said YES Network COO Ray Hopkins, who said the companies have been in discussions over a 3D production for several months. Hopkins said the 3D effort is a natural followup to the interactive TV initiative that YES and DirecTV teamed on in 2006.

The two games will be produced separately from YES' normal HD coverage, with 3D camera rigs from 3D specialist PACE and NEP Broadcasting's SS3D truck. That is the same technical set-up that supported ESPN's 3D production of The Masters golf tournament last month, which was carried on a special channel by Comcast and several other cable operators and also made available as a live Internet stream to 3D-capable laptops and PCs.

Hopkins said that the 3D broadcasts of the Yankees will also be made available to other YES affiliates, though he provided no details about other potential carriage deals. He added that Panasonic will be coordinating public viewing events of the games but that it is unlikely there will be one at Yankee Stadium. That makes sense, as the Yankees have a close business relationship with rival set-maker Sony Electronics and Sony HDTV monitors are installed throughout Yankee Stadium.

Fox Sports already shot some test 3D footage this spring in Anaheim with some high-school baseball players, noted Eric Shanks, EVP of Entertainment for DirecTV, and the YES production and All-Star Game should provide further guidance as to how to regularly produce baseball in 3D. Shanks said he was impressed by the visual effect 3D's depth of field gave in the test footage.

"There are some interesting shots from the center-field camera, looking at the runner on second base," he said. "You actually feel you're in the stadium looking at that shot."

Shanks didn't announce any further MLB 3D broadcasts past the All-Star Game, but said that early 3D adopters could expect a steady flow of 3D sports content on DirecTV, with much of it coming from ESPN 3D.

"Through the course of 2010, 2011, there's probably not going to be a week that goes by without some 3D sporting event for our subscribers."

By Glen Dickson, Broadcasting & Cable