I just spoke with Bryan Burns, a vice president with ESPN, who offered some additional insight into the sports network's launch of an all-3D channel.
Burns said that ESPN formed a 30-person group called "3DOC"--short for 3D organizing committee--to plan the company's 3D strategy.
He said the launch of the network will be similar to that of the debut of ESPNHD in 2002. The only difference is that with ESPNHD, the company simulcast standard-def programming on the network when no HD programming was available. ESPN3D, however, will go dark whenever there is no 3D content. This is because 3D feeds are about twice as bandwidth intensive as an HD feed.
Burns said that ESPN is now talking with cable and satellite providers about adding the ESPN3D to their channel lineups, and said he is hopeful that there will be availability on most major providers by the summer.
"All the planets are more aligned than they were seven years ago," he said.
The reviews of sports in 3D have been generally positive, and Burns was particularly encouraged by a showing of the Sept. 12 Ohio State-USC game. About 11,000 fans watched the game inside the Galen Center in Los Angeles, and Burns said he noticed many fans in the front rows physically backing away as players from the game appeared to come right at them.
"That was when I was like, 'ok, I think we're on to something here,'" he said.
To actually watch the ESPN 3D channel, you'll need a new 3D television. These aren't really available yet, but manufacturers are expected to make a big splash at the CES show in Las Vegas this week, and the new televisions could be widely available--though surely quite costly--by the 2010 holiday season.
It's also possible that cable and satellite companies will need to provide different set-top boxes in order to handle 3D feeds.