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Comcast launches 3-D channel as part of Xfinity service

On Feb. 20, Comcast launched a new 3-D channel as part of its Xfinity top-tier service that it said will feature concerts, sporting events, movies and original programming 24/7. Perhaps prompted by the competition, the new channel joins DirecTV’s 3net and n3D channels as well as ESPN’s 3-D channel, giving U.S. consumers with 3-D TV sets something new to watch virtually every day of the week.

For Comcast, the new channel is a follow up to the cable MSO’s pioneering effort in televising last April’s Masters Golf Tournament, which originated from Comcast’s Media Center in Denver and was distributed to a variety of cable operators via fiber. The company said that more than a million VOD requests for that coverage, which used Sony cameras and PACE rigs, have come in since.

In a statement, Marcien Jenckes, Comcast senior vice president and general manager of video services, said 3-D brings “the best seats in the house right to customers’ living rooms.”

Comcast currently carries ESPN 3D, which converted to a 24-hour channel on Feb. 14 after launching last year as an event-based service. The MSO does not offer 3net, a linear 3-D channel owned by Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX that launched on Feb. 13 with DirecTV. DirecTV's own n3D channel of converted music, nature and sports programs was launched last July.

The Xfinity 3-D channel went live with an inaugural broadcast of the “2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic,” a game between the Montreal Canadians and Calgary Flames played outdoors at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. That was followed by an “MTV World Stage” concert by Kings of Leon from the O2 World arena in Hamburg.

Going forward, Comcast said the Xfinity 3-D channel will present movies documenting African safaris, haunted castles, the depths of the ocean, the surface of the sun, the age of dinosaurs and more, along with original programming about Chinese dragon dancing and rhythmic gymnastics.

Last month, Comcast launched an on-demand 3-D HBO channel, which provides customers access to movies such as “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Coraline.”

Like Comcast, several cable operators across the country have begun offering 3-D VOD programming to subscribers on an HD tier for free. The hope is that it will stimulate 3-D set sales.