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Content - not tech - delaying possible Sky 3D channel

Broadcaster talks openly about 3D TV's future

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Exclusive Content, rather than technical issues, is holding back the launch of a 3D TV offering by broadcaster Sky, Register Hardware has learned.

It was recently reported that Sky’s Chief Engineer, Chris Johns, had suggested that homes could see 3D TV by Christmas – but whether Johns’ meant specifically from Sky, or was talking in a more general sense, remains unclear.

However, Sky has since told Register Hardware that it’s now deciding which types of content would be best suited to 3D broadcasts and that it’s this groundwork – for which the broadcaster has no firm timetable – that’ll determine if and when Sky offers a 3D service.

“We need a body of content to populate 3D TV [with] and to work out how to market it”, said a company spokesman. “We have some content, but we don’t have expansive content.”

Hollywood may help here - movie makers are already shooting films in 3D, the spokesman claimed, in preparation for a shift from 2D imagery that they see as inevitable.

As yet, no standards exist for 3D content delivery, but it appears that content companies are getting material ready now and will worry about formats later.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year, Panasonic called for the rapid development of a standard for 3D to be displayed on a 1080p TV. Its initiative has already received the thumbs-up from Terminator and Titanic director James Cameron, who's next movie, the long-awaited Avatar, is set to feature state-of-the-art 3D tech.

Meantime, Sky plans to quiz customers to gauge if they have an appetite for 3D TV, and across which genres, whether sports, documentaries or entertainment.

A Sky 3D TV service is certainly technically possible, the spokesman confirmed. Back in December 2008, the company claimed to have demonstrated 3D TV inside its London HQ, using just a regular “3D Ready” TV, 3D content sourced from a hard drive and a standard Sky+ HD set-top box.

If Sky launched the service trialled at its HQ, customers would still have to don special specs, the spokesman admitted, because “at present the 3D image with glasses is superior to that without glasses”.

Panasonic's system, for one, requires "a special pair of active shutter glasses that work in synchronisation with the Plasma HDTV", the manufacturer said earlier this year.

If 3D TV firms raise their game he implied, then there’s hope that any Sky 3D service could be enjoyed without glasses. ®

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