New 3net channel gets off the ground via satellite

After more than a year of intense discussion and planning, a new 24/7 channel devoted to original 3-D content, 3net, launched Feb. 13 on DIRECTV and is now available to millions of its subscribers nationwide. Content shown on 3net is shot natively with 3-D cameras and special rigs. The hope is that the availability of the new channel, jointly owned and operated by Discovery Communications, IMAX and Sony Electronics, will stimulate the consumer market for 3-D TV sets.

Derek Chang, executive vice president of content strategy and development at DIRECTV, said the availability of 3-D programming is vital to the success and increased adoption of the technology among consumers. DIRECTV also offers two other 3-D channels: n3D, for converted movies (sponsored by Panasonic (opens in new tab)), and ESPN 3D, which started running sports videos 24/7 Feb. 14. Cable TV providers Cablevision, Comcast and Time Warner, as well as Verizon’s FiOS service, also offer 3-D content, but it’s basically movies converted from 2-D material.

The lack of compelling, fresh content has been cited as one reason consumers have been hesitant to buy 3-D-compatible HD sets. Roughly 1 million such sets have been sold to date in the United States, significantly missing early industry predictions of 3 million to 5 million sold in 2010.

The 3net channel went live at 8 p.m. EST on DIRECTV Channel 107 with the one-hour, native 3-D programs “China Revealed,” “Forgotten Planet” and “Into The Deep 3D.” Going forward, the network said it would offer original 3-D series and new programs every night at 9 p.m. EST. The partnership said the goal for the new channel is to have the largest library of native 3-D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011.

Industry veteran Tom Cosgrove has been named 3net’s president and CEO.

“It is clear that 3-D is here to stay and is only going to get better,” he said. “We’ve had a ton of interest.”

Rob Wiesenthal, executive vice president and CFO of Sony Corporation of America, said the new 3net channel is “an important element in our strategy to maintain a leadership position in all things 3-D.”

To view DIRECTV’s several channels of 3-D movies and documentaries converted from 2-D, subscribers received a free software upgrade that gives them access. Viewers still need a 3-D TV and active-shutter 3-D glasses to view the programming.

Sony has previously announced plans to develop a compact, single-lens 3-D camcorder for Discovery’s production teams, with talk of a prototype being shown at the 2011 NAB Show.