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Cost, Choice and Availability

How Much Does Sky 3D Cost?

With money so tight at the moment, a good place to start is by looking at the financial commitment you’ll have to undertake to get Sky’s 3D service. And from one point of view, the news is not nearly as bad as you might have expected, since if you have a Sky HD receiver, you will not need to buy a new Sky box in order to receive the broadcaster’s 3D signals.

This is because Sky has opted for a system whereby its 3D signals are carried within a single HD-bandwidth channel stream, with the HD box merely receiving them and outputting them - as well as recording them, if you wish - in the same way it would a normal, non-3D HD broadcast.

More good news financially is that if Sky sticks with its current plans, subscribers to Sky’s top-tier package - movies, sports, HD, the works - won’t even have to pay any extra subscription to receive the new 3D broadcasts. They’ll be added to your package for 'free', as it were.

Sky won’t currently be drawn on how 3D content might be priced for people who don’t have the full Sky HD package, so we can only speculate. Maybe it will be an extra £10 a month, like the Sky HD sub, or maybe you just won’t be able to get 3D at all unless you take the full package (though this option seems pretty unlikely). Plus there will inevitably be pay-per-view 3D events, likely comprising a selection of sport and movies.

When, Where and What Can I Watch?

The likely focus on 3D as a special occasion rather than 24/7 viewing experience probably means the wider 3D channels will also largely comprise sport and movie content, at least initially. Obviously when more details of the programming side of things emerge nearer to Sky 3D’s consumer launch, we’ll tell you.

One other programming point worth stressing at this stage is that Sky isn’t currently thinking of doing any 2D to 3D conversion for its 3D channels. The technology for achieving this does exist - JVC showed a live 2D-3D converter at CEATEC a couple of years ago, and both Samsung and Toshiba have revealed TVs with 2D-3D converters built in. But according to Lenz, while Sky is staying aware of 2D to 3D conversion, the key to their current approach is that the final 3D product must not cause eye strain. And that means delivering a full 3D 'journey', from filming using newly developed 3D camera rigs and techniques, through to mastering and broadcasting.

If you were paying attention earlier on, you may have noticed that I talked about Sky 3D’s 'consumer launch'. The reason I specified the launch in this way is because Sky is actually rolling its 3D service out in three stages. The first of these three stages has actually already happened; on January 31st, Sky showed the Arsenal vs Manchester United footie match live in 3D on LG 3D TVs in nine different pubs across the UK.

With this 3D 'pilot' having worked as well as it possibly could, according to Lenz, Sky is now pressing on with the second 3D phase: a launch of a 3D service to the UK’s pubs and clubs market, likely to happen in April and focussed around big 'events' (mostly sport, we suspect).

The final, nationwide domestic launch will likely not happen until the latter half - maybe even the latter quarter - of the year. This is partly so Sky can refine its 3D efforts and infrastructure based on its Pub/Club experience, and partly to give Sky more time to amass enough 3D content to make full 3D channels viable.

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