Fox Sports tackles new format

Fox Sports will telecast college football’s national championship game in 3-D directly to the Consumer Electronics Show and select theaters on Jan. 8.

Fox Sports TV Group chairman-CEO David Hill disclosed Fox’s Bowl Championship Series 3-D plans at Tuesday’s session at the 3-D Entertainment Summit. The exec had been asked about Thursday night’s first-ever live 3-D telecast of an NFL game, which is going to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston.

Hill said the network was enthused about 3-D — but he warned that electronics manufacturers needed to show up with a lot of coin before broadcasters invested in 3-D broadcasting.

“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.”

Speaking just feet from a room full of 3-D televisions aimed at the home market, Hill said that while sports look like the killer app for 3-D TV, broadcasters aren’t interested in footing the bill.

“For 3-D to become impactful in the homes of the world, the people that make money are going to have to subsidize it,” Hill said, referring to the TV set makers, who would benefit from selling another round of TV upgrades to consumers.

Despite his remarks, Hill has been a longtime 3-D enthusiast, having ordered up a Fox 3-D sports reel several years ago. Director Gary Lang shot the NFL, NASCAR, boxing and the NBA in 3-D.

Fox’s own reel calls the format “better than being there.”

“We have shown that it works and it’s going to have a major impact,” said Hill. “But am I going to pay in these troubled fiscal times to build a truck that shoots in 3-D? No. I’m having trouble paying for a truck to shoot in HD. I’d rather have a truck to shoot in SD (standard def).”

Hill said the commissioners of the NBA and NFL are especially supportive of Fox’s 3-D experiments. “Anything that makes their sport cool, they love.”

Yet as for the NFL’s first live 3-D broadcast, scheduled for Thursday night, Hill remained skeptical.

“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.”

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