TV Stations Fighting Over 3D Bragging Rights

There is no love lost between the "big-three" national Korean television networks KBS, MBC and SBS, as seen by the brewing legal dispute over SBS's exclusive broadcasting rights over the FIFA World Cup slated for June. Now, the ill-tempered competition seems to have boiled over to the three-dimensional (3D) television efforts, with both KBS and SBS insisting on becoming the first station to beam stereoscopic images to Korean living rooms.

SBS is one of the media companies that will be involved in the global test for 3D televisions during the World Cup in South Africa, as it also holds the live 3D rights. Collaborating with Japanese giant Sony, FIFA plans to provide 25 World Cup matches in 3D, which the technology industry hopes will help motivate customers to make the leap of faith to 3D televisions and content.

However, KBS looks intent on stealing SBS's thunder, as it plans to push 3D televisions out of the gate a month earlier than its rival by providing the 3D broadcasts of the 2010 Colorful Daegu Pre-Championships Meeting in May. The track meet precedes the 2011 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, which will be held in the same city.

Korea is aspiring to become the world's first nation to deliver high-definition (HD), 3D television over terrestrial networks, with trial services scheduled for October. The earlier 3D programs promised by KBS and SBS aren't at the "full-HD" level, but rely on the "side-by-side" method, which works by broadcasting two different angles in one frame to create the 3D effect.

"KBS has applied for the license to offer trial 3D television services on May 19, during the athletics event in Daegu. We will decide soon on whether to approve it," said an official from the radio policy bureau of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the country's converged regulator for broadcasting and telecommunications.

There is much at stake for the television stations to come in first in the 3D television race, as KCC is offering just one channel the 745 megahertz (MHz) band for terrestrial 3D broadcasting. Although there will be enough room for KBS and SBS to provide their 3D offerings when sharing broadcasting stations, this also means that the network that comes in second will be forced to borrow the facilities of the one who gained the license first.

"This is a serious battle over bragging rights, as both stations would prefer to deliver 3D television through their own transmission towers, especially when the trial services for HD-level broadcasting starts in October," said the KCC official.

By Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Times