Shaw helps Canada beat U.S. to 3-D

Cable service deals with Corus Ent. for content

TORONTO — Ahead of its U.S. bow, 3-D TV is coming to Canada.

Shaw Communications has pacted with Corus Entertainment to roll out 3-D film, family, sports and concert content via Shaw’s video-on-demand service and Corus’ Movie Central this summer.

Deal would likely make Movie Central the second channel to roll out 3-D after Japan’s Nippon Broadcasting, which launched a limited schedule of 3-D programming on a satellite channel in 2008.

Stateside, AMG TV, a net that feeds syndicated programs to some 200 terrestrial station affiliates, will be turned over to 3-D content by its new owners, Signet Intl. Holdings, led by former NBC and PBS exec Tom Donaldson and boxing promoter Ernie Letiziano. It plans to be broadcasting in 3-D several hours a day by year’s end.

Shaw prexy Peter Bissonnette describes the 3-D launch as a financial “voyage of discovery.”

“Distribution is not an issue, but getting the TV technologies into homes is a different story,” he says. “If you could find one person in Canada other than ourselves with the latest technology, you’d be lucky.”

Bissonnette says Shaw views this effort like the preamble to the launch of its first high definition channel a decade ago.

“We were very active in looking at developments within the technology side of the equation,” he says. “We started with one subscriber for high-def, and now we have over a million.”

Bissonnette says Calgary-based Shaw has already met with several TV manufacturers and other companies developing 3-D technologies.

While Shaw and Toronto-based Corus are committed to developing content, advancing the technology to support it and expanding 3-D offerings, their eagerness to get the jump on competitors means initial programming will be delivered via the anaglyphic process, requiring customers to wear “red-and-blue” glasses — not the ultimate 3-D TV experience. Shaw plans to provide free glasses to subscribers.

“We know there are still many question marks in terms of what the TV equipment attributes will be,” Bissonnette says. “But we’re in it for the long haul — we’re thinking, Wouldn’t it be great to watch Friday night football in 3-D?”

Canuck moviegoers will catch the 3-D sports experience before home viewers. At last week’s annual shareholder meeting, Cineplex Galaxy, Canada’s biggest exhibitor, announced plans to install 151 digital projectors — 122 3-D capable — in 72 theaters by the end of June.

The 3-D format “presents tremendous growth potential in terms of attendance, onscreen advertising and alternative content programming,” Cineplex VP Dan McGrath told shareholders. “We see a future where NBA basketball, NFL football, NHL hockey and other professional sports are regularly presented in 3-D in our theaters.”

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