NEW YORK (AP) — ESPN will stop broadcasting in 3-D by the end of the year, the network said Wednesday, dealing a major blow to a technology that was launched with great fanfare but has been limping along for years.
The sports network said there were too few viewers to make 3-D broadcasts worth it. It didn’t say exactly how many viewers had, but the number was “extremely limited and not growing.”
Last year, only 2 percent of TVs in the U.S. were able to show 3-D programming, according to the most recent data from research firm IHS Screen Digest.
ESPN 3D launched in 2010 as one of nine 3-D channels that followed on the release of James Cameron’s “Avatar.” TV makers rushed to introduce 3-D sets as well. ESPN said then that it expected a “3-D tsunami” in the industry.
But few consumers proved willing to pay the extra $200 or so for a 3-D-capable set. The sets also required viewers to wear glasses, and many people felt the 3-D effect didn’t add that much to the viewing experience.
Optometrists say as many as one in four viewers have problems watching 3-D movies and TV, either because the technology causes tiresome eyestrain or because they have problems perceiving depth.
TV makers have turned their focus to increasing the resolution of their sets to the “Ultra HDTV” level and getting broadcasters to take advantage of that.
ESPN said it would be ready to provide the broadcasts again “if or when 3D does take off.”
ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.