Broadcasters Line Up To Announce 3-D TV

ESPN announced it is going to begin broadcasting some games in 3-D. The move is months away and it seems there are still details to work out. Discovery Communications, Sony Corp. and IMAX Corp. also announced a joint venture established to develop the first 24/7 3-D television network in the U.S.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Consumer Electronics Show is the convention where technology companies show off their shiny new toys. It starts tomorrow in Las Vegas. Some of the shiniest toys are going to be 3-D television sets. NPR's Laura Sydell is in Las Vegas to cover the show with her 3-D glasses.

At the ready, Laura, I imagine a lot of this show will be devoted to these fancy new TV sets.

LAURA SYDELL: They will. And I have had a chance to look at some of them, and the 3-D itself is kind of extraordinary. It feels like you're being surrounded in a room by a bunch of fictional characters. It has this kind of amazing feel. But sets themselves don't look terribly different. The thing that's different, of course, is that you mostly have to wear those funny glasses in order to see 3-D because the way the whole thing works is that one eye sees something slightly different from the other and the glasses bring it together. And you get the illusion of being in a three-dimensional world.

There is possibly one set that will come out made by 3M where you don't have to have the glasses. The problem with that one is that it actually means you have to sit in a certain position in order to see it.

BLOCK: And if somebody were to invest in 3-D TV how much would it cost them?

SYDELL: You know, initially, it could set them back as much as $2,000 for a television, for I guess a larger 42-inch screen. Part of the question here is with regard to the cost is that people just bought HDTVs. So, one wonders if people really want to go out and buy another television set after you've just been told you needed to buy an HDTV. But that's the initial cost. And probably the people who would be likely to buy it are the kind of people who are going to be first adopters, you know, they want to be the first on their block to have one.

BLOCK: You would also want to be sure if you were going to make that investment that there would be something you'd want to watch. What about content in 3-D?

SYDELL: Well, content is coming. I think that a lot of the networks were pretty excited about the success of "Avatar," the 3-D movie that came out and now I guess it's been about a billion at the box office. So, ESPN, starting in June, will broadcast the World Cup in 3-D. Also another venture was just announced that included Sony and IMAX and Discovery and they say they are going to launch and entire channel dedicated to 3-D. But that won't come out until sometime in 2011. So, that's down the line. Right now, all you're really going to be able to watch is ESPN.

BLOCK: Laura, you and I talked a couple of days ago about the buzz over tablet computers said to be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show. What else are you hearing about?

SYDELL: Well, the other thing that I've seen and it's the big buzz here is mobile TV. So, you could get TV on your cell phone. So, last time I saw a Samsung phone, it had a little antenna, and you could watch the local news, you could get network television on it. And this is something was - that was made possible when everybody transferred over to digital television.

And then there's also kind of some fun things like a drone. You will be able to buy yourself your own drone. People keep talking about military drones and this one you can control it with your iPhone.

BLOCK: I am so far behind the curve.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Laura, thanks very much.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

BLOCK: It's NPR's Laura Sydell, surrounded by the preparations for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It opens tomorrow.

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