ESPN to Start First 3D Sports Channel

ESPN, the brand owned by Disney/ABC, which already provides several sports channels, plans to launch what would be the world's first 3D sports network with the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in June.

Whether or not it also proves to be the first 3D cable or satellite channel of any kind depends on what DirecTV plans to do in the next few months with its own 3D buildout plans, which the DBS firm reportedly is planning to detail this week somewhere in Las Vegas, which is also hosting the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show, (although it is not listed as a CES exhibitor).

Initial programming on ESPN 3D will focus on an estimated 85 live sports events during its first year of operation — premiering with the first World Cup match featuring South Africa vs. Mexico on June 11.

ESPN said additional 3D events are likely to include two dozen additional World Cup matches, the Summer X Games, college football and basketball games in their respective next seasons, and the BCS National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. in January 2011.

ESPN said in a statement that "ESPN 3D marries great content with new technology to enhance the fan's viewing experience and puts ESPN at the forefront of the next big advance for TV viewing." ESPN sees its 3D initiative as "a meaningful step" to drive adoption of 3D HD sets on the consumer level and to provide opportunities to its affiliates "to create value through new product offerings, and our advertisers, who want fresh sponsorship opportunities."

ESPN has been testing 3D sports coverage since late 2007. A year ago, it produced a regular-season college football game (USC vs. Ohio State) that was shown in a sampling of movie theaters, as well as on the USC campus in Los Angeles.

Both 3D-equipped TV sets and special eyeglasses will be required to view ESPN 3D.