Of all the problems bedeviling the growth of 3DTV, the dearth of quality content may be the thorniest.

Research firm Ovum interviewed execs worldwide and reported in May they rated production of 3D programming their lowest priority — primarily because of the cost of the content. And consumers have noticed the consequences of that reluctance: nearly 60% of respondents to a NPD/CTAM survey in June complained there wasn’t enough 3D content.

That hasn’t discouraged a few ambitious ventures in the U.S. from making serious investments in this sector. “For 3D to take off, content is going to be the key driver,” said Tom Cosgrove, president of 3net, a 3D-only cable net from Discovery Communications, IMAX and Sony.

3net bowed in February, the same month ESPN launched ESPN3D. They are the only networks stateside devoted to this nascent space, though distributors including DirecTV and Comcast have also licensed 3D movies for 3D-only channels and VOD offerings.

Building a 3D channel is tough. Most 24/7 nets are built by acquiring a library of existing programming, but 3D is so new there is next to none of that. That essentially forces channels into original production, where shooting and post-production costs are high and “will remain that way for the foreeseable future,” according to Cosgrove. 3D conversions are also pricey and problematic because, as the film world is experiencing, the quality leads a lot to be desired. “We’re not necessarily opposed to it, but it has to be done right.”

Though rumors swirls about their future viability, ESPN3D and 3net have made to supplying original programming. In June, 3net bowed over 20 hours of original native 3D content across a range of genres. As of Labor Day weekend, the amount of college football ESPN3D will broadcast will double from the previous year.

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