Sky breaks new ground with Rooney and Fabregas in 3D

Arsenal's Premier League match against Manchester United on Sunday may well have a crucial bearing on the outcome of the title race, and it will also mark a first for TV broadcasting.

Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas will be looming out of the screen in a few select pubs around Britain as the Emirates Stadium marks the first live broadcast of a sporting event in 3D.

BSkyB has stolen a march on England's rugby team, whose sponsor O2 had announced that next week's match against Wales is to be screened in 3D at 40 cinemas across the UK, and was to be the first live event of its kind. Sunday's match will be broadcast to nine pubs in cities including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Dublin and Edinburgh but has kept the locations a secret.

Regulars will be invited to don the glasses and become "the first audience anywhere in the world to experience live Premier League in 3D". If all goes well it hopes to bring the kit needed to hundreds more pubs in the next few months.

"3D is without doubt one of the most talked about developments in television for many years," the Sky chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, said. "So we fully intend to take the lead in bringing the spectacle of 3D to the UK and Ireland."

The company has also moved quicker than rival ESPN, which announced earlier this month it was to screen this year's World Cup in South Africa in 3D. The US broadcaster's president, George Bodenheimer, said at the time that sport was driving the new technology.

Many of Sky's customers can already, in theory, receive 3D broadcasts through the HD+ box, but they need to wait until early spring, when manufacturers start shipping 3D-ready screens to the UK in earnest. Companies including Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have announced plans to bring over the sets this year.

The country's first dedicated channel goes live in April, with Sky waiting until the content on the channel is not dominated by sport, but adds movies, arts programming, documentaries and entertainment shows. It will also prove a money-spinner for the group, which has seen recent profits driven by the extra cost of its high definition service. It will offer the 3D channel for free initially, but could well look to charge extra when the technology becomes more widespread.

The industry fully expects a move to 3D in the home. Viewers have become more comfortable with 3D, especially with the release of Avatar, the biggest-grossing film ever. Analysts added that the technology is in place, from the cameras to broadcasters' infrastructure and TV screens, and affordable enough to become attractive to consumers this year.

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