Thursday, December 4, 2008
73 More Days To Get Your 3-D Glasses
Fox Sports has a problem. In the world of sports TV contracts, Fox must match-up against an opponent that comes to the bargaining table with a major broadcast TV network and two cable TV sports networks in its pocket.
Should ESPN decide to turn the little-used ESPN Classic Network into a full-blown sports channel, that would give the company three national cable TV channels for live events in addition to the ABC Television Network.
When Fox senior executive David Hill looks around, he finds himself without even one cable TV network. Fox decided a while back to invest in the regional sports network business, which leaves Hill with nothing more than the sum total of the Fox local station affiliates and Rupert Murdoch's wallet with which to bargain.
After the recent news that the BCS was migrating to the ESPN/ABC group, Hill was looking for something to make Fox Sports stand-out in this era of new television technology. His solution? February's Daytona 500 shown in theaters in 3-D.
This from Michael Hiestand over at USA Today:
Fox Sports Chairman David Hill says Fox hopes to let theatergoers use 3-D glasses to watch February's NASCAR Daytona 500. Hill says sports in 3-D is "fabulous," and high-def TV "has just been a steppingstone" to get to 3-D.
Even if Fox's 3-D BCS action looks good — remember, this network created the NHL's "glowing puck" in the 1990s — you wonder if many fans will want to wear goofy 3-D glasses. Not to worry, Hill says: "Tommy Hilfiger will make 3-D glasses, and there'll be special 'date' glasses."
The funside of Hill is that he takes risks. He was behind the launch of Hot Pass on DirecTV and originally put together the NASCAR on Fox team that is the most visible and well-known of the NASCAR broadcasters.
An Aussie with a very long and colorful history in the TV business, Hill is Murdoch's right-hand man in American sports TV.
Before you think the 3-D talk is lunacy, take a look (click here) at this video from the guys at Philips. What the television set manufacturers are trying to do is eventually bring 3-D telecasts into the home in the same way that High Definition is cracking into the market.
Once again, this poses the biggest problem for program producers like Hill. Here are his comments on producing sports in 3-D in the future from USA Today:
"It's like that old Who song, Won't Get Fooled Again," Hill says. "Broadcasters had to pay through the nose to launch high def — we're still getting over the financial scars — and didn't get anything back in ratings or ad sales."
So while the BCS on the big screen might serve as an appetizer, he says networks aren't going to underwrite the infrastructure to let millions of couch potatoes see more fully dimensional views of fair catches: "Broadcasters won't do anything until we get everything paid for by the set manufacturers."
Speaking over at Variety, Hill was a bit more blunt in his assessment of the situation:
"I hope the TV industry doesn't get conned again the way we did with HD," Hill said. "And we got conned. It cost us a fortune to go to HD, but do we get a penny more from the advertisers? Do we get an extra rating point? No. Everybody benefited but the broadcasters."
"I can't see us making a move into 3-D until a good fairy comes flapping into my office with a check," he said. "But still, it's sitting there, we know it's going to work, and some day someone is going to do something."
In the meantime, you may be sitting in your local theater wearing the blue and red glasses while the COT crowd battles it out in February. There is no real timetable for any or all of this to happen, but one thing is for sure. There are 73 more days until the Daytona 500.
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