The ‘Avatar’ Effect?: Discovery, Sony and IMAX Partner for 3D Channel to Launch in 2011

Jan 5, 2010  •  Post A Comment

With the annual CES convention starting on Thursday, a number of companies are jumping the gun with announcements about what they hope will be the next big thing: 3D TV channels.

The latest: Discovery Communications, Sony Corp and IMAX Corp. have announced a yet-to-be-named joint venture that will be a 24-hour-a-day channel, distributed by Discovery, dedicated to showing content in 3D.

And similar to the reports of 3D channels by ESPN and DirecTV,  glasses will be required for viewers to watch the channels and get the 3D effect. Asked today in a press conference if viewers will do that in their homes to watch 3D TV, top executives at the partnering companies didn’t think that would be a problem.

There are efforts underway by some TV manufacturers to develop 3D TV that does not require glasses. Philips is reportedly aiming to bring a such a 3D set to market perhaps as early as 2011.

Richard Gelfond, IMAX’s CEO, noted that just yesterday, Monday, Jan. 4th, 25% of that day’s box office gross for "Avatar" came from the showings of the film in 3D at IMAX theaters, though, in total, only 2% of the screens showing the film are in IMAX theaters.

When asked if the phenomenal success of "Avatar" in 3D was the impetus for announcing the deal today, Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer said that the timing had more to do with CES. He said that Sony had co-developed the 3D cameras used in shooting "Avatar" with the film’s director, James Cameron, so the company has long been familiar with the potential of 3D.

Though the joint venture has had discussions with various distributors, no affiliate deals are in place, according to Discovery CEO David Zaslav. He said he thinks the channel will be part of a basic tier of  TV services, and not a pay service such as HBO.

Also on the call was Discovery founder and Chairman John Hendricks, who noted that the company has long had an interest in cutting-edge technology and was one of the first to lead the HD bandwagon.

In a departure from what Discovey does with most of its channels, ad sales for the new 3D network will be handled by Sony, not Discovery.

The executives also noted that they had the technology to convert 2D library material into 3D, and would likely do so for the new channel.

–Chuck Ross


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