By Richard LaBerge, SENSIO Technologies Inc.
In the last four years, Live 3D has come a long way. It was back in 2007, before the advent of 3DTVs, that SENSIO and our partner, International Datacasting, first demonstrated a live 3D solution in a digital cinema server. It took another year or so for the solution to be deployed, with the first live 3D event in cinemas in January 2009. But it was in 2010 that Live 3D really began to take off, with such prestigious events as the US Open tennis, French Open tennis and, of course, the first worldwide Live 3D event: the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ soccer championship, with SENSIO® Hi-Fi 3D technology powering it. These events were distributed in cinemas already equipped with 3D technology, and to a small TV audience.
This last year has seen many more events being produced, driven by specialised networks such as ESPN, Sky and Eurosport, covering a broad section of some of the most-watched broadcast sports: rugby with the RBS Six Nations final and the Rugby World Cup; basketball with the NBA All-Star weekend; tennis with the French Open and Wimbledon (the first in a three-year commitment); and soccer with the UEFA final.
Interest from content creators
Entertainment events are also garnering interest from content creators. This year we’ve seen live 3D concerts from top hip-hop groups Die Fantastischen Vier in Germany and Violadores del Verso in Spain, and alternative rock band Foo Fighters in the USA. On the classical side, we’ve had live 3D opera from the English National Opera in the UK (Lucrezia Borgia), and from Stockholm Opera in Sweden (Faust). If we take into account the events filmed in live performance and stored for later playback, such as The Royal Opera House’s Carmen in 3D and the Black-Eyed Peas concert, we can see that entertainment events are of as great an interest as sporting events.
Production costs however, are still high for 3D, and 3DTV sales have been disappointing. By the end of 2011, only 8% of all TVs sold this year will be 3D-capable. Though forecasts for 2012 are for 15% of total TV sales*, the current audience potential remains small, and content creators are wondering whether Live 3D is viable.
Making Live 3D viable
To improve profitability, a new approach is required: multi-platform distribution on TV, in cinemas, and over internet-connected 3D devices. Such an approach enables Live 3D content to reach a wider audience: both 3D-equipped and non-3D-equipped; both within and without the original broadcast coverage area. With more spectators comes increased revenue, through specialty-TV subscriptions, box-office takings, and pay-per-view orders. Further revenues can be generated by storing the content for later re-distribution, notably via video-on-demand, and by striking deals with broadcasters in other markets.
As well as enabling increased revenues, this approach favours profitability. By making the most of the existing infrastructure for Live 3D in cinemas to reach non-3DTV-owning audiences, content creators can limit incremental distribution costs. In addition, contribution costs are reduced if they deliver simultaneously to broadcast markets in the same geographic regions.
How can we know that audiences will buy into an extensive offer of Live 3D in cinemas?
Take a look at the success of ‘The Met: Live in HD’. A daring gamble, this live opera in cinemas has gone from 60,000 tickets in four countries to 1.1 million tickets in over 20 countries in five years.** Sporting events such as boxing and mixed martial arts, better up close, are also benefitting from being shown on the big screen. Re-creating the collective experience of the stadium or the playhouse for a high-profile live event, at a fraction of the cost of tickets and travel, is a major advantage for consumers. With the realism gained from an added dimension, audiences can feel the thrill of being there, and in front-row seats.
SENSIO’s experience of being involved since the experimental stages of Live 3D, and our role in developing the cinema distribution channel both from technical and business points of view, enable us to say with confidence that the multi-platform approach is the way forward to bridge the gap between cost-intensive trials and revenue-generating full-scale deployment. To ensure complete acceptance by audiences, and therefore maximize revenue potential, content creators will need to adapt production to the particular nature of 3D, just as they did for HD. As long as every effort is made to continually improve on production techniques, Live 3D has the power to be the wave that carries 3D into a new era of profitability.
*Source: Market penetration of 3DTVs : Generator Research, “3D Television: 2010 to 2014” – April 2010.
Richard LaBerge is Executive Vice-President and CMO of SENSIO Technologies Inc. SENSIO Technologies Inc. has been at the forefront of Live 3D since its SENSIO® Hi-Fi 3D technology powered the very first Live 3D broadcast. Its SENSIO® 3D Live Network, developed for the first worldwide Live 3D event, is the only ready-to-go, global Live 3D distribution solution.