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Content Providers, TV Makers Team On 3D TV

Video content producers and distributors were nearly as busy as TV and Blu-ray player makers at the recent International CES, as the two industries began an earnest push behind the launch of 3D TV for the home.

In show booths and at company press conferences, movie studios, TV producers and multichannel TV providers lined up behind various TV brands to announce plans to co-market the first 3D Blu-ray Disc titles and 3D TV television channels in support of 3D-ready TV equipment. Most are due to arrive this summer.

For Blu-ray the excitement stemmed from the recently completed 3D spec for the HD disc format.

Sony Electronics and its sister unit Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) announced plans for the first 3D-ready Bravia LCD TVs and 3D Blu-ray player, to be supported in part by 3D Blu-ray Discs from SPHE.

The first planned SPHE Blu-ray 3D release will be the animated blockbuster “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” for a summer arrival.

Similarly, DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor announced their collaboration with TV set maker Samsung on a global strategic alliance for the delivery of a complete 3D home entertainment solution in 2010.

The solution includes a broad lineup of Samsung 3D-capable LCD and plasma HDTVs, its new 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and an exclusive promotion that includes a first-time feature-length, 3D Blu-ray version of DreamWorks Animation’s 2009 hit, “Monsters vs. Aliens.”

The disc will be created and produced by Technicolor. Samsung said it would provide customers several additional 3D selections, including a short entitled “Bob’s Big Break” and trailers for forthcoming DreamWorks Animation feature film releases “How to Train your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After.”

The fare will be playable through the [email protected] feature on select Samsung HDTVs.

To underscore the collaboration, Samsung introduced Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder and CEO of DreamWorks and Frederic Rose, Technicolor chairman and chief executive officer, at its CES press conference.

Technicolor also announced at the show several innovations in 3D technologies for Blu-ray 3D, broadcast 3D, 3D subtitling, and auto-stereoscopic 3D delivery to mobile handsets.

For Blu-ray 3D the company developed an advanced compression and authoring solution. Technicolor said it has expanded its capacity in anticipation of increased demand for Blu-ray 3D authoring.

During its CES-eve press conference, here, Panasonic brought out “Avatar” producer Jon Landau, who was riding high on the movie’s more than $1 billion in gross receipts after less than a month in theaters.

Landau pointed out that he and the film’s director/creator James Cameron originally began working with Panasonic because they were so impressed with the company’s plasma monitors.

Panasonic presented at the show its VT25 series 3D-ready plasma TVs in the 50-, 54-, 58- and 65-inch screen sizes along with a 3D Blu-ray Disc player slated for release later this year.

The sets will deliver FullHD 1080p images to each eye and will ship with one pair of glasses based on an active LC shutter system.

Earlier, Disney announced it would release the animated holiday hit “A Christmas Carol” on 3D Blu-ray Disc in the fourth quarter.

Disney said it is planning a new premium lineup of digital 3D films for home viewing.

To prime the 3D pump, the studio will release a 3D Showcase Disc that will contain teasers for upcoming 3D films like “Alice in Wonderland” and Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”

The 1953 animated short film “Working for Peanuts” will also be featured on the disc.

Television producers also revealed plans to support the new format. ESPN said it would carry at least 85 sporting events in 3D HD this year (starting in June) on a new channel it is to launch.

The offering will start with the first 2010 FIFA World Cup match on June 11 featuring South Africa vs. Mexico. Other events to be produced in 3D include up to 25 2010 FIFA World Cup matches, Summer X Games, college basketball and college football, which will include the BCS National Championship game in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2011.

ESPN will announce pay-TV operator carriage agreements later.

Similarly, Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX formally announced prior to the show that they were forming a joint venture to create a 24-hour 3D television network in the U.S. to supply programming for new 3D HD sets.

No carriage agreements were disclosed. The partnership is slated for launch in the U.S. in 2011 offering a mix of 3D-friendly content, including natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures and children’s programming from Discovery, Sony Pictures Entertainment, IMAX and other third-party providers.

Meanwhile, satellite TV provider DirecTV revealed plans to launch three 3D dedicated channels sponsored by Panasonic starting the June.

DirecTV’s executive VP Eric Shanks said during the Panasonic press conference that the satellite will have two linear 3D channels and one video-on-demand channel to transmit sports, movies, music, documentaries and other 3D programming. Shanks said that Fox Sports would be broadcasting this year’s MLB All-Star Game in 3D.

DirecTV said it is working with 3D technology leader RealD to deliver the new 3D fare. DirecTV said its content providers will be able use RealD tools to format their 3D content and deliver it to subscribers.