Sky Enters Another Dimension

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If you're a football fan, chances are you've already at least heard about the 3D offerings of BSkyB, which were showcased in pubs across the country during this year's World Cup. If you're not, you could soon embrace the new TV format, as, this morning, BSkyB launched Europe's first 3D channel. It's still primarily aimed at sports fans though.

The new channel teed off at 7am with live 3D coverage of the Ryder Cup, this year held in Wales. In fact, today's schedule is only given a limited time out from sports by family film Monsters Vs Aliens, airing at 8pm. Though James Hunt, Sky Arts' head of programming, admits the channel is currently "dominated by sports and movies", he does concede that it "also offers great prospects--for performing arts in particular." We donned our glasses for a special screening of the channel's first Sky Art endeavour, Dance Dance Dance, to see what this development could mean for the future of serial TV.

From watching the dance show, set to air at 9pm on Sky 3D this Saturday, it's clear the broadcasting giant is still getting to grips with the new technology--something Hunt later admitted. Sequences you'd expect to pop out from the screen don't always deliver, as juxtaposing backgrounds aren't always best matched. That said, when things do reach out to you it's often with beautiful clarity; a dance in the fountains of Somerset House particularly portrays this.

3D and dance are forming a particularly frugal partnership: just look at your local cinema schedule for proof of this. It's a safe(ish) and proven option for Sky, following the success of Box Office hits StreetDance and Step Up 3D, but what about other genres? Your favourite crime dramas, or comedy classics, are unlikely to air on the channel anytime soon. For starters they need to be filmed using special equipment and there are no plans for that yet--that privilege is currently predominantly reserved for event, usually live, television.

It's an expensive, and risky, endeavour turning TV shows into 3D as their financial success isn't as immediate as films or sports (which often relies on lucrative sponsorship deals). That's not to say it won't happen--similar things were said about HD TV once upon a time. At least by the time serials are produced in 3D the lessons learnt now can be put to work.

Like high definition programming, viewers who want to enjoy 3D TV will have to buy a compatible television set and the most expensive package on Sky. They'll also get to look trendy in the new, clear 3D glasses. Will you be going to these lengths, or does 3D TV not bother you?