Australian Broadcasters Put 3D TV Plans on Hold

Rugby World Cup 3D broadcasts also cancelled.

SYDNEY -- Australia’s free to air broadcasters have put plans for 3D broadcasting on the backburner, quietly dismantling their 3D transmission towers in recent months, according to local newspaper reports.

When 3D sets first came onto the market last year broadcast regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)  opened spectrum for 3D broadcasts on a trial basis and broadcasters rushed to provide 3D coverage of major events including the soccer World Cup, the State Of Origin Rugby League series, and annual football grand finals.

Since October last year however there have been no further applications to ACMA for 3D trial licenses, according to the newspaper, while facilities company Broadcast Australia confirmed that 3D transmission towers had been dismantled.

The report says the expense of 3D broadcasts and lack of consumer interest  has led to the rollback.  

Media analyst Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy told the paper that "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."

"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," he added.

The report comes as Rugby World Cup organizers in New Zealand last week announced that plans to broadcast key matches and the finals live in 3D had been cancelled after production company 3D Live, said it could no longer meet its production commitments.

“On confirmation of 3D Live’s position, we explored every option to try to make production viable. However, with so little time remaining before the tournament kicks off we all agreed that cancelling the 3D program was the most appropriate decision for the tournament. We have kept our broadcast partners informed and they fully understand the rationale behind this difficult decision,” said Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL) chairman, Bernard Lapasset.

Sky New Zealand is the host broadcaster of the tournament, which takes place September 9 to October 23. It is producing all games in high definition.

The scaling back of 3D free to air broadcasts in Australia means that a question mark remains over whether the Nine Network, the free to air Olympics rights holder here, will air any of the London games in 3D.

It is believed that 3D capable TV sets numbering in just the thousands have been sold here.  

ACMA said earlier this year that any further 3D trials ”must be of a short duration, and broadcasters will be required to give the ACMA undertakings on measures that will assist consumers to understand that trial broadcasts are temporary and will only be available in a limited number of locations."

By contrast pay TV provider Foxtel has a stand alone 3D channel where it broadcasts 3D movies and events, including ESPN’s recent XGames.

Foxtel has committed to air eight high-definition channels of Olympics competition from London next year but has not yet said if it will broadcast any of the Olympics in 3D.