ESPN, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network owned by Disney, has announced the closure of it's dedicated 3D channel that it launched in 2010 citing lack of interest from viewers
Although this is not the first 3D channel to shut down (Canal+ closed theirs after just 18 months) it is a major blow to the business of 3D sports coverage as ESPN were one of the major providers of 3D content, producing about 140 events in 3D each year.
According to spokeswoman Katina Arnold "Due to limited viewer adoption of 3D services to the home, ESPN is discontinuing ESPN 3D. We are committing our 3D resources to other products and services that will better serve fans and affiliates. Nobody knows more about sports in 3D than ESPN, and we will be ready to provide the service to fans if or when 3D does take off." So they are keeping their options open.
According to recent viewing figures from the US less than 120,000 people were viewing 3D content at any one time. Although most large screen TVs now have the option to show 3D content consumers seem uninterested and it is not often the reason to buy a particular model. Early adopters seem much more interested in Ultra HD (4K) TVs than in 3D
Sony had been a major sponsor of the ESPN 3D channel, providing cameras, 3D technology and funding. Sony continues to promote 3D but is now also pushing 4K with production taking place at the Confederations Cup Football competition in Brazil and at this years Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Sony will also be producing 3D coverage of Wimbledon so it will be interesting to see which version generates the most interest among consumers.
Ultimately the problem with 3D is that the technology was initially expensive, the glasses are uncomfortable to wear over long periods and the content was lacking. TV manufacturers were keen to promote it as it would generate new sales but consumers were unimpressed.
Unless we get a cheap glasses free technology and a way to produce 3D content that is as simple (and cheap) as producing 2D then I fear 3DTV is doomed.