NCAA basketball Final Four going 3D

CBS, LG, Cinedigm pact for venture

CBS Sports, LG Electronics and Cinedigm have teamed up to beam the Men’s NCAA basketball Final Four to up to 100 digital 3D equipped theaters.

Net will telecast the semifinals on April 3 and the finals on April 5. Fans at the event at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will also be able to watch 3D screens around the venue.

Cinedigm is handling distributing the telecast to theaters on its d-cinema network.

LG is sponsoring the event, providing the screens in the stadium and paying for the production, which represents CBS Sports’ first experiment with 3D content.

“It’s dipping our toe in the water and seeing how it’s actually done,” said Ken Aagaard, executive VP operations for CBS Sports.

The broadcast nets have complained that after the transition to digital, from which they derived no extra revenue, they can’t afford to pay for another upgrade to 3D.

Telecasts to theaters represent an immediate opportunity for the nets to get into 3D programming, as many affiliates have apportioned parts of their bandwidth to sub-channels and other money-making services, leaving too little available for over-the-air 3D.

“If it’s going to live longer than just going into theaters, it has to on terrestrial and satellite broadcast in some way shape or form,” Aagaard said. “The only way it survives long term is through subscription.”

3D sportscasts are gaining some traction ahead of both 3D gaming and other 3D live events as stereoscopic displays move into the home. ESPN is programming 3D coverage of the soccer world cup this summer and is planning a 3D sports cable channel.

Basketball is considered especially suitable for 3D television coverage because it’s possible to get the camera close to the action almost anywhere on the court, which isn’t possible with large field sports.

Net will use five 3D cameras from Pace Technologies: one over the backboard, one handheld under each basket and two in the stands.

Pace has experience with 3D for the NBA and ESPN used his gear on last fall’s USC-Ohio State 3D football telecast.

“You’ll see a lot of low angles. We won’t be cutting very much so you get that 3D experience,” Aagaard said.