Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Will You Watch Tiger Woods in 3-D Next Week?

Will you wear special glasses to watch golf on your couch?

That’s the proposition Comcast and the Masters will offer next week when the cable provider and the famous golf tournament beam some of the four-day event to homes across the country in 3-D.

Comcast (CMCSA) executives figure that only a few thousand people will have the right equipment to take advantage of the broadcast, which will also be offered to competing cable providers like Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Cablevision (CVC). So this is very much a demonstration of the technology–a cool example of where this could go.

But the preview Comcast offered in New York yesterday was a reminder that we’re not we’re not there yet. Even if you get your head around the special TV-plus-special-glasses thing, sports on 3-D TV sounds better in concept than it is in practice.

It’s not bad, mind you. It’s just not blow-you-away great. Part of this is because sports on HD TVs already look great. So it’s hard to improve on that dramatically.

And right now, the 3-D looks cool, but it in a limited way. If you’re of a certain age, you can think back to the View-Master and the tiered effect it created. So you can see that the rough is in the foreground and that the spray from the sandtrap moved forward during that shot. But that won’t be novel for long.

The other problem with 3-D sports on TV for now is that watching them means you’re not watching the same show everyone else sees–the one with an army of cameras, top-flight announcers and all the bells and whistles you’re used to in a big TV sports event.

That’s because 3-D requires a completely different production team. 3-D cameras are bulky and expensive, so live productions use fewer of them, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you’re watch the broadcast and realize you’re not seeing all the angles you’re used to.

And because these demos are only going out to a few people, there’s no point in doing the full-fledged production that you’d expect from CBS (CBS) or ESPN.

Still, money and technology can solve those problems eventually if there’s enough demand. I talked to Comcast’s Mark Francisco about 3-D’s prospects going forward.


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