BSkyB Calls for Better 3D Content

A day after Sony talked up its commitment to 3D TV, an exec at Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB warned that the medium would only succeed if industryites and tech sector take the medium seriously, with content providers raising the bar to provide premium fare.

Brian Lenz is director of product design and TV product development at the British paybox, which is planning to bow what it describes as Europe's first 3D TV channel in the fall.

"3D TV used to be a gimmick, and frankly a lot of people don't know how to use it other than as a gimmick," Lenz said at the Westminster eForum seminar in London on Thursday. "3D TV is going to grow rapidly, but it is down to the industry not to screw it up. High-quality content is essential."

Acknowledging the scarcity of 3D TV content, Lenz said the new channel aims to show a minimum of six hours of fare a week across all genres plus movies and sports. But the paybox, which has commissioned veteran Brit natural history presenter David Attenborough to present a 3D series about prehistoric flying lizards, said producers would have to be self-financing.

"We don't aim to fund everyone's first 3D project because that is not likely to be their best," Lenz said.

BSkyB, which has led the take-up of HD TV in the U.K., launched a 3D service showing live soccer on TVs in pubs and clubs two months ago. More than 1,000 venues have taken the service, according to Lenz, but for 3D TV to make any real impact, BSkyB needs to succeed with home subscribers.

However, with the cost of 3D TVs hovering around £1,700 ($2,489) in the U.K., plus the shortage of content, Lenz and his team face an uphill battle.

Another speaker at the seminar, Paul Gray, director of European TV research at consultancy DisplaySearch, forecast that once the cost of 3D TVs dropped to $1,170 they would get a 10% market share in Blighty.

"The rapid expansion of content is critical" Gray said. "Without it consumers will remain cautious."

Sony's ESPN 3D channel kicks off today with the opening game in the World Cup soccer tournament, Mexico vs. South Africa, live from Johannesburg. It's unnamed Discovery-Sony-Imax channel will bow in 2011.

By Steve Clarke, Variety