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The Future of 3D: ESPN Knows

During the 2010 FIFA World Cup this past summer, which drew 24.3 million viewers during the final match, ESPN conducted a survey asking viewers to share their thoughts about 3D versus HD stations. The result, though not as hotly contested as the match between Spain and Netherlands, clearly showed that viewers were not only comfortable watching sports in 3D – they even preferred it over HD.

ESPN Research + Analytics, the sports network’s research arm, used an experimental survey design in its study, which included the use of perception analyzers, eye gaze and electrodermal activity. With these new methods, ESPN was able to include factors such as overall viewing enjoyment, fatigue, novelty effect and advertising impact into its results. For fairness among 3D TV makers, the study also included five different manufacturers in its testing.

The results are said to reflect what has already been said in the industry – 3D TV-viewing is more enjoyable and does a better job of engaging fans in event-based viewing (i.e. sporting events). ESPN says it will be using the results to further developing ESPN 3D as a leader in the 3D viewing industry.

Advertisers expressed excitement for the future of 3D advertising, as the study also revealed that those who watched the same ad in 2D and 3D could better recall the advertisement in 3D than 2D, as cued recall jumped from 68 percent (2D) to 83 percent (3D) and the intent to purchase a product based on a 3D ad jumped from 49 percent to 83 percent. The “enjoyment” of an ad also rose from 67 percent (2D) to 84 percent (3D).

The spark for the study was prompted just as news reports were starting to question whether 3D TV programming, and 3D TVs, is a worthwhile investment. ESPN 3D was one of the first large-scale 3D channels on the market, which ESPN is clearly using as a “test case” for other stations considering offering 3D programming.

To address any concerns over the safety of viewing 3D TV and wearing 3D glasses for long periods of time, participants were tested before and after the survey, and the study found that there no adverse side effects on depth perception and participants adjusted well to 3D over time and under normal use.

So it seems that 3D TV is around to stay. Good news, given that 3D TVs are on everyone’s holiday wishlist in 2010!

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