ESPN will launch television’s first 3-D network later this year, just in time for soccer’s World Cup.
The cable sports behemoth announced Tuesday (Jan. 5) that ESPN 3D will debut on June 11 with the opening of the World Cup, a match between host South Africa and Mexico. The network plans to air 85 live 3-D events in its first year, including as many as two dozen more World Cup matches, the Summer X Games and the 2011 BCS championship game.
Discovery, which was an early adopter of high-definition TV, is also at work on a 3-D network that’s slated to premiere in 2011. The announcements by both networks coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where several manufacturers are unveiling 3-D-capable television sets.
ESPN 3D will be dark when there’s not live programming in three dimensions. The currently nameless Discovery channel, a partnership with Sony and IMAX, will be on the air around the clock.
ESPN has been testing 3-D technology for a couple of years and did a test run with the Ohio State-USC football game in September. It showed the 3-D version of the game on the USC campus and at a handful of theaters in Ohio and elsewhere, to mostly positive audience reaction.
Three-dimensional TV won’t just magically pop out of your flat-screen set. Viewers will have to have a 3-D-capable monitor and wear glasses, just like at the movies. It’s also possible that viewers would need a separate set-top box to handle 3-D channels.