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ESPN Continues To Build 3D Network, Adds Verizon Fios TV To Nationwide System

'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' is arriving in 3D, complete with ads for viewing on ESPN 3D.March 21, 2011: ESPN, which has been at the forefront of bringing 3D TV to the masses, is expanding its capabilities to customers of Fios TV.

The network, which launched ESPN 3D last June to coincide with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, said it has signed a deal with Verizon to launch ESPN 3D on Fios TV on April 5. ESPN 3D will be viewable for Fios TV customers "who have a 3D TV set, 3D glasses and a high-definition set-top box. The channel will be included at no extra charge for Fios TV customers who subscribe to the Ultimate HD package, or on its own for $9.99 per month," according to ESPN.

ESPN, which began showing 3D content 24 hours a day on Feb. 14, is targeting the launch of 3D on Fios TV for The Masters Golf Tournament (April 6-10) and the NBA playoffs, which begin April 16.

“The launch of ESPN 3D on Fios TV marks an exciting addition for our customers, giving them 24/7 access to 3D programming for the first time,” Terry Denson, vp-content strategy and acquisition for Verizon, said in a statement. “We continue to enhance our Fios TV offering, with interactive applications, online video programming, and more and more 3D programming. And with the addition of ESPN 3D, our customers will get exciting sports programming that includes the Masters and NBA playoffs – all in 3D.”

According to a new study from research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics, Boston, "ownership of 3DTVs will accelerate rapidly over the next three years." The report, Global 3D-Enabled Device Sales Forecast, offers that that 34% of U.S. homes will own a 3D-ready TV by 2014. In Europe, 3DTV ownership will grow even faster, with 42 percent of homes owning a 3DTV by 2014.

According to David Mercer, Principal Analyst at Strategy Analytics, “Once 3D-ready TVs are out there, the question for 3D content publishers will be: How often will 3D TV owners get the goggles out? Without compelling 3D content there is a real danger that 3D becomes a dormant feature — much hyped but rarely used.”

ESPN 3D comes with compatible 3D ads for 'This is SportsCenter.' Despite of early challenges in the 3D TV market, the report predicts that 3D capability will become "commonplace across a wide range of consumer electronics devices. Global sales of 3D-enabled devices are forecast to grow 89% in 2011, to reach 95 million units. This forecast includes 3D-ready TVs, 3D TV set-top boxes, 3D Blu-ray players, 3D media players, 3D phones and 3D fixed and portable games consoles."

The growth of 3D TV, according to analysts, needs to be fueled not only by content such as that provided by ESPN, but also by ad dollars. The increasing number of films available in 3D has spurred the marketplace. When ESPN 3D aired its first NBA game on Dec. 17 (the Miami Heat versus the New York Knicks), the telecast included the world premiere of the 3D trailer for Walt Disney Pictures Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starring Johhny Depp as Capt. Jack Sparrow. The fourth installment in the Pirates franchise will be the first available in 3D when it hits theaters in May.

During the Miami-New York game, ESPN 3D also aired 3D spots from Universal for the DVD release of its animated hit, Despicable Me; Philips ran a 3D commercial for its Norelco 3D razor; Sony, an official sponsor of ESPN 3D; and ESPN's own 3D promo spots. ESPN is a division of Disney Co.

A study released in November from ESPN Research + Analytics found that viewers who participated in tests had better recall of ads in 3D than the same ads in standard 2D and that purchase intent increased from 49% after seeing a 2D ad to 83% when the same ad was shown in 3D.

"Without compelling 3D content there is a real danger that 3D becomes a dormant feature — much hyped but rarely used.”

ESPN 3D has featured two college championships (Bowl Championship Series in January and the Big East basketball tournament) and will feature the upcoming NBA Finals in June. ESPN 3D has also highlighted college football, college basketball, Winter and Summer X Games and other events.

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