As one of 3-D TV’s earliest innovators in the United States, sports broadcaster ESPN remains committed to bringing 3-D content to households. Chuck Pagano, who was recently named ESPN’s new executive vice president and CTO, talks about the early trials for the broadcaster in 3-D and the technological challenges it faces in moving forward with the platform.
VIA SATELLITE: What have been the most prominent technological challenges for ESPN since launching 3-D services?
Pagano: From a pure technology perspective, the biggest insight I have seen via this 3-D launch process is that nothing is insurmountable. When we launched it, there were very few vendors with deliverable products that we could take advantage of; that has actually been eradicated. The one thing we have learned from a production standpoint is that less is more. The challenge has actually gone into the rear-view mirror stage. We are always looking for new ways of transporting or distributing 3-D TV. The technology is there. What we are getting ready for is the next phase of sending 3-D TV out to our customers. We have just launched a new MPEG4 product that we are using to transport to our affiliates, and we are making plans to have that included in 3-D via satellite. We don’t have a start date, but we definitely have plans to use that system for 3-D via satellite.
VIA SATELLITE: In previous interviews, you noted that technology vendors were caught off guard by the sudden move to 3-D — how have things progressed since then?
Pagano: Things have gone great. Our vendors have always been there to raise the bar a little bit higher. We got over the initial hurdles, which were really out there at the time of our World Cup coverage. Since then, it has been a fait d’accompli; it is a non-issue issue. We got it done and there are a lot of products available and technological tools that are helping with the 3-D TV effort. It is almost like the status quo, business as usual approach now. The tools are there for us to utilize.
VIA SATELLITE: How are you looking to enhance 3-D technology now that you have these tools?
Pagano: 3-D TV has been a non-core manufacturing process in our shopfloor production. We are now looking at ways of getting that included into the standard way that we do business in our personal complex. What I am talking about are things like production switchers, routing switches and the ability to do 3-D graphics. These are the items on our agenda going forward, and we want to see how we can utilize the best products, practice and technology that is coming out. We were up and running as of January when we launched the 3-D network 24/7. We did more than 100 events in the first year, so we are looking at how we can ramp up the use of 3-D TV technology to make it both a full-time service and a better product for our fans to enjoy. I read a statistic last year from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) that said there were 1.1 million 3-D TV sets sold, and this year there is forecast to be 1.9 million 3-D TV sets sold. So, little by little, 3-D TV is establishing itself. You cannot go into a consumer electronics store without seeing a 3-D product up on the screen.