Sony Makes It Official, Extends ESPN 3D Sponsorship for Another Year

As first reported by the Sports Video Group, Sony Electronics has officially renewed its sponsorship of ESPN’s 3D sports network for another year. Sony announced yesterday that it will continue to sponsor 3D productions of the upcoming Summer X Games and regular college football season this fall. Sony was named the first official sponsor of the network in January 2010.

“We are excited to extend our partnership with ESPN and continue to deliver sports in 3D to consumer homes,” says Stuart Redsun, SVP of marketing at Sony Electronics. “We’ve signed on to do the X Games as well as an expanded college football schedule, where ESPN will utilize Sony professional 3D cameras to bring consumers the best in live sports.”

ESPN 3D launched in June 2010 with the FIFA World Cup and became a 24/7 network on Feb. 14. The network launched with carriage on DIRECTV, Comcast, and AT&T U-verse and has since engineered deals with Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS.

As of today, ESPN 3D has produced more than 115 live sports events, a hefty boost over the minimum of the 85 that ESPN promised when it announced the 3D network at CES in January 2010.

“Working with companies like Sony on such leading-edge technologies as 3D gives us the ability to deliver a whole new experience to sports fans,” adds Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN Customer Marketing and Sales. “We’re doubling the number of college football games on the network this fall, which was made possible by our strategic relationship with Sony.”

ESPN 3D debuted with FIFA World Cup telecasts — produced by Host Broadcast Services — throughout June and July 2010 before undertaking its first in-house 3D productions with last year’s MLB Home Run Derby and Summer X Games in Los Angeles. Using Sony 3D camera rigs, ESPN took to the road, producing college football (including the BCS Championship game) and basketball (including the Big East Tournament), boxing, and The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. ESPN 3D also delivered several NBA games throughout the season and during the playoffs, including every game of the NBA Finals.

According to ESPN, new technologies and strategies have significantly cut down on the costs of 3D production over the past year. ESPN 3D has produced boxing, NBA basketball, and other events using a single truck for both the 2D and 3D productions — the economic goal for 3D programming. In addition, the upcoming X Games 17 and Little League World Series will also use what many at ESPN refer to as a “5D” approach, combining 2D and 3D resources.

However, a 3D network that usually requires independent side-by-side 2D and 3D productions remains a pricey venture demanding financial backing from sponsors like Sony.

“I don’t see the model changing anytime soon,” Sony Director of 3D Business Development Rob Willox said at SVG 3D & Beyond Summit in May. “I have to admire ESPN sending one truck to do both 2D and 3D [productions] for boxing and basketball, but a sport like football is a very different animal. It will be interesting to see if we can harmonize [2D and 3D] into one production. The short answer is that it is going to take some time and it is going to take a sponsorship to get there.”