Sky: 3D Blu-ray chaos helping channel

This Christmas Eve, thousands of Sky 3D customers will sit down, don a pair of active or passive glasses and watch Avatar in 3D. But not on Blu-ray.

Launched earlier this year with the Ryder Cup, Sky 3D’s showing of a three-dimensional Avatar is the company’s crowning achievement so far. One that the company hopes will kick start its fledgling service, and a further kick in the nether regions for 3DTV owners who aren’t on Sky (it’s a Panasonic exclusive 3D Blu-ray 'till 2012, and therefore unlikely to be available to buy until then).

“If anything the exclusives are helping us”, Brian Lenz, Sky’s TV product director tells Pocket-lint when asked whether the studios' exclusive agreements with TV makers, like Panasonic and Samsung, are helping or hindering the new service.

Sky has already used its strength and contacts in the movie world to show many of the box office 3D hits that you just can’t get on Blu-ray yet.

That means Monsters vs Aliens, Bolt, Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs, A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland, and, of course, Avatar, which have or will be shown this year alone. Plus, there's the promise of all three Disney Toy Story movies to come in the new year.

“We are very happy with the way things are going when it comes to 3D”, says Lenz. Although he is reluctant to give out official figures on how many people have actually signed up.

Industry figures suggest that consumers keen to ride the next wave of TV technology have snapped up around 100,000 televisions in the UK this year so far. And that number will expand further in 2011, as the technology trickles down from 2010’s flagship models to more mainstream offerings in 2011. Certainly, a bevy of related announcements are expected for CES in Las Vegas.

But is the service ready to go truly mainstream? Lenz thinks so, boasting 10m Sky customers that “represent the average British citizen". He doesn't think, however, it will be as widespread as HD:

“3D is for when you really want to watch a movie, when you really want to watch TV”, he says. “I don’t think it will become wallpaper, I don’t think that you’ll have 54 3D channels in 5 years”.

It's a sentiment that matches comments by Sir David Attenborough, made earlier in the week. Attenborough, having just made one documentary, Flying Monsters 3D, and commissioned to make another for Sky, told an audience, including Pocket-lint:

“I don’t think 3DTV will become wallpaper. It’s going to be event TV. It’s for important programs. It’s not going to be any good for trivia. It’s for TV programs that really mean something”.

The comments will be pleasing to many, worried that by the year 2015 they will be forced to watch television wearing a set of glasses. It will also please those worried that Sky has got the wrong idea about 3D television, and how best to work it.

“We have no problem with other 3D channels", says Lenz. "We do not aim to own the 3D space entirely. What we are aiming for is our 3D channel to be incredible”.

And with that in mind, the broadcaster is doing everything it can, from buying in Hollywood content, filming football matches, golf, and boxing, to making documentaries with Sir David Attenborough. Even game shows will get the 3D treatment along the way.

So, will we see a second 3D channel from Sky or anyone else anytime soon? It's unlikely, but not improbable:

“We're not in discussions with any broadcasters about a dedicated 3D channel. However, some people have registered for 3D channel slots in the launch grid”.

It's certainly interesting, even if nothing is confirmed, and shows that there is room for 3D in the home to grow, just not at the same speed and channel adoption of HD.

For that to truly happen we might have to wait until the BBC decides to jump on the bandwagon. According to Lenz, HD received a massive boost once the BBC got involved. Just leave EastEnders out of it, we'd rather not have a gurning Phil Mitchell leering out at us, thank you very much.

Are you dismayed by the lack of 3D Blu-ray content available to buy? Or are you a happy Sky 3D customer? Let us know in the comments below...

Avatar 3D Blu-ray exclusive to Panasonic until 2012

Avatar 3DTV world premiere on Sky 3D