Slowly but surely, television seen moving to 3D

Three-dimensional television is growing at a slower than expected pace, but industry experts remain optimistic that it will reshape the way the world watches the small screen.

The number of 3D TV channels will break the 100-channel barrier by 2014, according to market research group In-Stat, with sports, the arts, big music events and movies set to spearhead growth.

"When we said three years ago that 3D would be a success, people criticized us," said Vincent Teulade, a Paris-based technology and media consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, at the MIPTV trade show that ended Thursday.

"But 3D has arrived and it is known by the mass market."

Between 50 to 70 percent of Hollywood's box office income now comes from 3D movies, thanks in part to the higher ticket prices charged by cinemas to view them, Teulade noted.

For television, MIPTV this year saw a bigger selection of 3D programs up for international sale.

These ranged from spectacular wildlife and travel documentaries to children's cartoons, stunning ballet, breakdancing and circus performances, and - for older viewers - a large choice from the adult entertainment industry.

"Over the last few months we have seen increasingly more content that is in 3D," Laurine Garaude, who heads the television division at MIPTV organiser Reed Midem, told AFP.

Many of the programmes offered at the MIPDOC documentary convention that preceded MIPTV were presented as being "cross-media," Garaude noted.

But consumer electronics and broadcasting experts cautioned that a number of hurdles still must be overcome before there remains a number of major hurdles to overcome before 3D television can take flight.

The volume of 3D production remains low, the number of 3D channels is only slowly expanding, and a big question mark hangs over how quickly consumers will buy 3D sets after many only recently shelled out for high-def screens.

Sony Corporation's senior manager for 3D, Akira Shimazu, was nevertheless upbeat in Cannes about sales of 3D TV sets, saying there has been a sharp rise in Europe and the United States.

Sony's planned launch of a 3D hand-held video camera this year could also speed-up 3D uptake, panelists at a MIPTV seminar on the topic noted.

South Korea is deemed to be well-placed to lead the 3D revolution in Asia, as its consumers are expected to buy 3D sets in a big way when analogue broadcasting ends next year, Phil Yoon, director of South Korean satellite platform Skylife said.

Film-making in 3D remains on a steep learning curve, however, with producers in both film and television still trying to get to grips with how to shoot great-quality 3D.

"We still need quality content to capture audiences," said Ghislaine Le Rhun-Gautier, head of 3D projects at French telecoms operator Orange.

"You have to create something great for the viewer if you want to keep them," added John Cassy, director of Sky3D in Britain.

Exceptional events such as the 2012 Olympics in London could also convince more viewers to sign up to 3D.

Cassy acknowledged Sky3D's failed attempt to cover Prince William's forthcoming wedding in 3D, which might have been a turning point with an estimated two billion people due to watch the event worldwide.

But royalty fans will have a chance to see pomp and circumstance in 3D when Orange broadcasts 3D coverage of the marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco to his South African-born fiance Charlene Whitstock on July 9.

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