This will be my third post on TV in a fortnight, and for a media that has remained fairly unchanged over the past 30 years, save for subscription services, the introduction of colour, and the retirement of ROVE this surely indicates BIG changes are afoot.
Top of mind this week for Australian audiences was the launch of 3D Television. This week saw the first broadcast of a 3D sports event on Fox Sports (with the Socceroos farewell match), this will be swiftly followed up by the first free-to-air broadcast of the State of Origin by Nine, this evening. The Jury is very much out 3D TV and whether this is gimmick or a viable technology. Most I have spoken to including heads of sales for two FTA networks and MCN tell me its early days and the broadcasts to date are largely bragging rights related.
So what have I uncovered regarding this technology;
- 3D TV is expensive to produce.
- The equipment, operation and specialised skills required to shoot and edit it are new, expensive, and require bespoke set up and management
- 3D TV format programming cannot be downgraded or re-formatted to standard definition, this implies that any event or show being made in this format needs to effectively be made twice
- Then there are additional bandwidth requirements, 3D requires more MGHz than HD and almost three times that of standard definition signals. Networks only have a limited capacity allocation and already have to service HD and std. channels, so 3D presents an issue that could mean compromised quality for standard broadcast in order to get a 3D signal out.
On the costs Stephen Leeds of the Ten network indicated that the estimated cost for the 3D broadcasts of this week are in the region of a million dollars, and that the fit out of a 3D truck might even cost up to $18M.
But how big is the audience?
- the estimated number of 3D TV sets out there in Australia as of today is estimated at 6000-8000 with the retailers pushing sports and films like Avatar as key reasons to buy.
So the barriers as they stand
- Content; there really is not very much to watch yet. The TV networks see a future in sport, and special events, however the entertainment industry more broadly will be developing content; Movies, of course Avatar paved the way there, Gaming (massive opportunity) and dare i say it Porn (always a ahead of the game) are areas where content is expected to boom.
- Secondly is the revenue model; if content is so expensive to create, how will the content creators off-set these costs? Advertising is one option but it might not yet make it viable.
So this week has seen the launch of mass targeted IPTV via Google TV, and 3DTV thanks to some big sports events, our lounge room lives are about to get way more exciting.