Exec: Mass 3D TV adoption to be slow

Comcast's Derek Harrar says event-type content will be key

3D on TV is a product for early adopters and will only slowly become a mass-market offering, with event-type content -- particularly sports, concerts and select movies -- being the key driver of usage and adoption, according to a top Comcast executive.

But thanks to CES and "Avatar," 3D TV has gotten a lot of buzz, and it has shown early promise, said Derek Harrar, senior vp and GM of video and entertainment services at the cable giant, on Wednesday.

As part of its VOD service, Comcast has offered five 3D-enabled "events": three films and two concerts. A "Hannah Montana" concert in 2008 was the first. Of all views for the five content pieces, 16% have come in 3D, he said. "That's pretty compelling from an early adopter" standpoint, he said, citing the 20%-25% reach of HD offers.

Harrar said Comcast hasn't used a dedicated 3D business model yet, with all five 3D events being priced the same way as non-3D content.

Harrar and other Comcast executives were in New York to demo the 3D broadcasts planned for next week's Masters, which Comcast is distributing to its cable systems and such other cable firms as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox. The golf tournament will be the first linear broadcast of a live national 3D event on TV and online.

"As the year progresses, we'll have more 3D content," Harrar said without providing further details. "There are lots of discussions going on with various programmers."

Although 3D already is of interest to early adopters and will be important for more and more consumers, it will take time to reach critical mass. Only several thousand 3D TV sets are in use in the U.S.

"When 'Avatar' comes out in 3D, there will be some people who will buy 3D TVs," Harrar noted.

Comcast sees 3D as "a natural platform for on-demand," with special events, especially sports, being most appealing for consumers, Harrar said, citing a "certain inconvenience" about wearing 3D glasses, which he argued makes it unlikely that people will watch the news and various other programs in 3D.

Does Comcast need exclusive content to compete with other cable and satellite TV providers? "That is not in providers' best interest," he said. "Our intent, just like in HD, is to have much more (3D content) than the competition."
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