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Sony, Discovery, IMAX Plan 3D TV Network

Sony, Discovery Communications and IMAX have announced a joint venture to build a 24-hour 3D television network in the United States.

Sony, Discovery Communications and IMAX will be equal partners in the venture. Financial terms were not disclosed. The network will feature content from genres that lend themselves to 3D imagery, such as natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures, and children's programming.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney's ESPN also announced on Tuesday plans to launch its own 3D TV network. Called ESPN 3D, the network will showcase at least 85 live sporting events during its first year, which will start with the first 2010 FIFA World Cup match June 11 between South Africa and Mexico, George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said in a statement.

ESPN has been testing 3D technology for more than two years. Last fall, the network produced the University of Southern California vs. Ohio State University football game in 3D, showing the event in select theaters as well as to 6,000 fans in the Galen Center on USC's campus.

Other events that ESPN 3D plans to produce include up to 25 2010 World Cup matches, NBA games, X Games 16 and college basketball and football games, including the BCS National Championship football game in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2011. Additional events will be announced at a later date.

"This will be a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3D television sets and afford opportunities for our affiliates to create value through new product offerings, and our advertisers, who want fresh sponsorship opportunities," Sean Bratches, executive VP for sales and marketing at ESPN, said in a statement.

Films created in 3D have been around since the 1950s, but recent advancements in technology deliver a more immersive experience that have proven popular among moviegoers. As a result, Hollywood studios are releasing more 3D films as a way to lure more people into the theaters.

The rising amount of 3D content is also expected to help drive consumer demand for such entertainment in the home. Market researcher DisplaySearch predicts the market for 3D displays used in the home, by professionals, and in advertising will grow from $902 million in revenues worldwide in 2008 to $22 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 38%.

Discovery will provide affiliate sales, 3D television rights to its content, and cross-promotion across its portfolio of 13 U.S. TV networks. Sony will provide sales support, license the TV rights to current and future 3D feature films and music-related and game-related content, and provide cross-promotion at retail stores. IMAX will license TV rights to future 3D films, provide promotion through its owned-and-operated U.S. movie theaters and contribute a suite of proprietary and patented image enhancement and 3D technologies.

"This new business venture is the first step in our strategic effort to take 3D into the home," IMAX Chief Executive Richard L. Gelfond said in a statement.

"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," Sir Howard Stringer, chairman, chief executive and president of Sony, said in a statement.

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