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Discovery, Imax and Sony to debut 3-D TV channel [Updated]

January 5, 2010 |  6:02 am

Will television viewing in the three dimensions be the next frontier in home entertainment? That's the hype coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And at least two cable companies are buying it.

DISCOVERY3D Discovery Communications, operator of the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and other cable networks,  is partnering with Sony Pictures Entertainment and Imax Corp., the Canadian operator of giant-screen movie theaters, to launch a 3-D channel in the U.S. in 2011, according to people familiar with the plans. They join Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN in trying to capitalize on the 3-D sensation. The cable sports giant announced early this morning that it was launching its own 3-D channel.

The channel would be distributed through Discovery and will showcase films from Sony and Imax, producer of such releases as "Under the Sea 3D" and "Space Station 3D."

[Updated, 10:05 a.m.:  “By partnering with Sony and IMAX on 3D, Discovery will lead the way in revolutionizing the next-generation home-viewing experience in the U.S. and around the world,” said Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav in a statement.  

Sony Corp. Chairman Howard Stringer said, "It is clear to us that consumers will always migrate to a better and richer entertainment experience, and together we are determined to be the leader in providing that around the world.”

ESPN's channel will launch later this June with coverage of Soccer's World Cup and will showcase almost 100 sporting events a year.

“ESPN 3-D marries great content with new technology to enhance the fan’s viewing experience and puts ESPN at the forefront of the next big advance for TV viewing," said George Bodenheimer, Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, and President, ESPN and ABC Sports.

Discovery and ESPN are not alone. Rupert Murdoch's broadcaster, BSkyB, also has announced plans to launch Europe's first 3-D channel. DirecTV also has been looking to launch a 3-D HD channel this year.

Sony and Panasonic and other manufacturers have indicated they will release home 3-D television systems in 2010. The new format got a boost recently when the Blu-ray Disc Assn. announced it had reached an agreement on the long-anticipated standard for showing 3-D movies on home TVs.

-- Richard Verrier