The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Mark Cuban on the 3D-free Super Bowl: Was it the Geek Factor?

February 9, 2011 |  1:55 pm

Mark_cuban If there's anyone who understands the strange DNA of American guys, it's Mark Cuban, the pioneering Internet entrepreneur who now owns the Dallas Mavericks and 2929 Entertainment, which makes movies and oversees the Landmark Theaters chain. Cuban is also a co-founder of HD Net, the first high-definition satellite TV network. In other words, he's no technophobe. But as this new post on his blog makes clear, Cuban has a problem with the social elements of the development of 3D, especially when it comes to making inroads into our living rooms.

For Cuban, the Super Bowl was a huge speed bump for the arrival of 3D TV because of 3D's very absence. As he put it:

No one talked about wanting to watch in 3D. No one was upset that the game was not broadcast in 3D. There weren’t irate call ins to talk radio. In fact, I don’t think anyone realized that it wasn’t being broadcast in 3D because no one cared. It was the same thing earlier in the season when the NBA did a game in 3D. Not a single person asked me about it. No one in the media brought it up. No one talked about watching it. That is saying a lot.

In Cuban's mind, what it says is that the future of 3D will not be propelled by guys getting together, beers in hand, wanting to watch a big basketball or football game broadcast in 3D. It's the Geek Factor.  "A bunch of guys are not going to spend a lot of money on glasses to look goofy sitting next to each other," he contends. I guess there are exceptions to this rule, since after all, don't thousands of incredibly goofy looking guys hang out together at Comic-Con?

At any rate, Cuban isn't arguing that 3D doesn't have a future on TV, just that the vast majority of people who watch 3D telecasts will do it by themselves, or perhaps with their kids, but not when they're around their peers. (There is nonglasses 3D on the way, but you have to sit right in front of the TV, making it a hard sell for social occasions.) I'd especially like to hear from any female readers as to whether this is really a Guy Thing or whether it might apply to women as well.

But I think Cuban makes a valid point -- 3D TV might work best as a solitary pursuit. Cuban has considered the potential perils of exposure. As he says: "Having to buy a bunch of glasses for you and your buddies to watch the game ... too much risk that someone takes a picture of the group and posts it on Facebook. That [stuff] lives forever."

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban exhorting his team during a game in January against the Houston Rockets. Credit: Larry W. Smith/European Pressphoto Agency