Kerner to offer stereo technology for viewers

The seeds of the nation’s first 3-D broadcast network have been planted, repping a small step for television, but a giant leap for 3-D.

Signet Intl. Holdings, a publicly traded company led by former NBC and PBS exec Tom Donaldson and boxing promoter Ernie Letiziano, is buying AMG TV, a modestly sized net that feeds syndicated programs to some 200 terrestrial station affiliates, some of them carrying programming only part of the day.

Simultaneously, Signet has pacted with Kerner Broadcast Corp. for exclusive use of Kerner’s 3-D TV technology. Kerner, a spinoff from Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic, is also taking an equity position in Signet.

“We fully plan to have, as soon as we can acquire the library, the first full-time 3-D network in the country,” Donaldson told Daily Variety.

Donaldson said as part of the deal, the company expects to receive a capital infusion of around $14 million, to be used for personnel expansion, technical development and an advertising and PR campaign.

Currrent set-top boxes for cable and satellite aren’t equipped for 3-D, though many TVs already sold are technically 3-D ready.

To that end, Kerner plans to introduce two solutions: an add-on box for cable and satellite subscribers; and an “enhancement” that will turn any HD television into a 3-D TV for about $50, including the cost of glasses.

Yuska Siuicki, CEO of Kerner Broadcasting, said “on a one to 10 scale, it’s a five” in terms of 3-D picture quality, but it would make home 3-D TV affordable and widely available for the first time.

To fill the sked, Kerner plans to convert existing programming to 3-D. AMG will also make its 3-D network available to other content providers that want to try 3-D but are not yet ready to upgrade their own systems.

Companies known to be experimenting with 3-D broadcasting include ESPN, Fox Sports, 3ality Digital, the National Football League, the NBA and the NCAA.

Japan’s Nippon Broadcasting launched a limited schedule of 3-D programming over a satellite channel in 2008.

AMG claims 200 terrestrial affiliates in North America and Latin America, many of them in the exurbs of major markets, including WRNN in the Hudson Valley and KHIZ Victorville, Calif., which has carriage on some L.A. cable systems. Net is also on cable in the Caribbean and is negotiating for carriage in Europe. Donaldson said AMG is in “over 70 million homes.”

The plan is for AMG to be broadcasting in 3-D several hours a day by year’s end.

“We don’t feel it’s rocket science on the broadcast end,” said Siuicki. “The rocket science is getting 3-D pictures into the household.”

Kerner is the former practical f/x shop of Industrial Light & Magic. It was spun off by Lucasfilm with the proviso that it not compete with ILM in the digital visual effects field. Instead, its engineers have supplemented the f/x business with advanced electronics and 3-D technology. Their other efforts include 3-D camera rigs and advanced imaging software (Daily Variety, Nov. 24).

Terry Elaqua, prexy of AMG TV, said, “I think in the baby stages of this you’ll see a series of specials” that would be released on the network and made available elsewhere.

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