The Rugby World Cup is coming, but don’t expect 3D coverage, writes Jennifer Dudley- Nicholson
The Rugby World Cup snubs 3D TV.
THE year’s biggest sporting event is one month away. More than one million tickets have been sold, teams from 20 countries are in training and fans are updating their home cinemas for the big event.
But while the Rugby World Cup is raising TV sales and expectations, Australian viewers will be unable to watch matches using the latest screen technology.
Free-to-air channels appear to have abandoned 3D TV trials, with broadcasting experts confirming 3D transmitters have been removed from capital cities across Australia. The move means that even though some RWC games will be filmed in 3D, the footage will not be screened here.
Media analysts say it is indicative of a wider rejection of 3D TV broadcasts in Australia that may relegate the technology to a ‘‘ fad’’, at least in the short term.
The RWC, which kicks off in New Zealand on September 9, is expected to be viewed by more than four billion people worldwide. As such, organisers have signed up production company 3DLive to record selected matches in 3D. These include the final, bronze final and semi-final matches, according to Rugby World Cup Limited chairman Bernard Lapasset.
‘‘ We are proud the Rugby World Cup can serve as a platform for advancing technology and the viewing experience,’’ he says.
The matches will be filmed in 3D by 3DLive, a New Zealand firm, and provided to all official broadcasters, including Foxtel and Channel 9. Despite this, neither broadcaster plans to screen the matches in 3D.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed no free-to-air channels had applied for a temporary 3D TV broadcasting licence, despite successful trials during last year’s State of Origin and FIFA World Cup.
An ACMA review of 3D TV tests say further trials will remain possible until December. But it looks increasingly unlikely any channel will apply for a fresh licence after broadcasting companies confirmed 3D TV transmitters had been removed from towers in Australia’s capital cities.
Broadcast ONE managing director Darren Kirsop-Frearson says the transmission equipment had been on loan and its removal signalled the end of the broadcasters’ plans to pursue 3D TV trials.
He says future 3D broadcasts are technologically possible as the UHF spectrum would remain available this year and the required antennas remained in place.
‘‘ The transmitters have been removed but they could be replaced,’’ KirsopFrearson says.
‘‘ There is a channel currently available in all of the capital cities that was used last year to broadcast 3D TV trials. Technically it can be done.’’
Furthermore, a Foxtel spokesperson confirmed the company ‘‘ has no plans to broadcast any matches from the Rugby World Cup in 3D’’, despite the availability of the Fox Sports 3D channel.
The news will likely come as a shock to 3D TV owners, many of whom purchased their advanced screens in anticipation of further 3D TV broadcasts.
Australians spent more than $ 361 million on 3D TVs between March last year and February this year, accounting for more than 13 per cent of all TV sales, GfK Retail and Technology finds.
The research firm also reports 3D TV sales are accelerating in the country, with a 301 per cent increase in sales from September onwards. Companies including LG, Panasonic, Sony and Samsung are heavily promoting the technology.
But Fusion Strategy media analyst Steve Allen says free-to-air channels are hesitant to sign up for more 3D TV trials due to perceptions that take-up has been slow.
‘‘ It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario,’’ Allen says.
‘‘ The problem for telecasters is that 3D is all very interesting but it costs a lot more to telecast, so until there’s a big demand they’re not going to do it.
‘‘ There’s no clamouring by the public for 3D broadcasts – you’d get emails and you’d get calls.’’
Allen says the problem is also an economic one because Australian television networks are not ‘‘ writing record profits’’ and do not see 3D broadcasts as a way to significantly boost ratings.
He says it may take leadership from American TV program-makers to have an impact on 3D transmissions here, as weekly or daily 3D TV shows would give viewers a reason to tune in regularly.
‘‘ Obviously with the amount of 3D films in the pipeline there’s a chance that there’ll be something to watch in 3D, but films are no longer a staple of TV viewing,’’ Allen says.
‘‘ My feeling is that 3D was a fad and it has stalled.
‘‘ It may pick up again but that’s not going to change in the short-term.’’