BBC plans 3D ‘hiatus’ as two-year trial draws to a close

The BBC has announced there are no immediate plans for it to produce any more programmes in 3D as its two-year trial of the format draws to a close. This Sunday’s (7 July) Wimbledon Men’s Single Final will be the last sports event to use stereoscopy, with only two more BBC 3D productions left in the pipeline.

In an interview with the BBC’s head of 3D, Kim Shillinglaw, said viewers had “not taken” to stereoscopic TV and confirmed there will be a three-year “hiatus” once the trial period concludes at the end of this year.

A spokesman for the BBC’s digital communications department has told SVG Europe that this does not necessarily mean there will be a firm decision on 3D after three years and that time was needed to see what it and other technologies, including 4K, might bring.

The BBC was among the first broadcasters to test 3D technology for sports coverage, with the Scotland-England match during the 2008 6 Nations Rugby Union tournament transmitted live in the format to an invited audience in London. As part of the more recent formal trial period the BBC has produced several stereoscope programmes and broadcasts of live events, including the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Despite 1.5 million homes in the UK estimated to have 3D capable TV sets, Shillinglaw said the Opening Ceremony to the Olympics was watched by only approximately half of those with stereoscopic receivers. “I have never seen a very big appetite for 3D television in the UK,” she told “Watching 3D is quite a hassly experience in the home. You have got to find your glasses before switching on the TV. I think when people watch TV they concentrate in a different way. When people go to the cinema they go and are used to doing one thing – I think that’s one of the reasons that take up of 3DTV has been disappointing.”

After the 3D Wimbledon coverage, which can be seen on the BBC’s HD Red Button service and also includes today’s Men’s Singles semi-finals and tomorrow’s Ladies’ Singles final, there will be stereoscopic presentations of the Dr Who 50th anniversary special in November, followed by nature documentary Hidden Kingdom either at the end of the year or early in 2014. “After that we will see what happens when the recession ends and there may be more take up of sets but I think the BBC will be having a wait and see. It’s the right time for a good old pause,” Shillinglaw concluded.

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