Football fans set for 3D experience

LONDON - Football fans could soon get closer than ever to the action without even leaving their chairs as 3D TV gets set to revolutionise sports events this year.

Sky and Disney's ESPN will both launch 3D networks in the coming months, with ESPN airing a minimum of 85 sporting events, including 25 World Cup finals matches from South Africa.

Sky will get the ball rolling on Sunday by filming the Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United in 3D and broadcasting it to selected pubs across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

It will be the first live 3D TV sports event broadcast to a public audience anywhere, according to the company part-owned by News International.

Sky 3D will be launched in April before it is later made available to all Sky+HD customers for a wider range of content including documentaries and movies.

Gerry O'Sullivan, Sky's Director of Strategic Product Development, said in a statement: "2010 is the year for 3D TV.

"People have already embraced 3D cinema and because Sky's 3D service uses the same kind of technology, we're confident there will be demand for sport, movies, concerts and drama in 3D."

The move into 3D broadcasting follows hotly on the success of James Cameron's 3D movie Avatar, which this week became the highest-grossing movie worldwide partly due to 3D engagements.

The sci-fi film had racked up a box office total of $1.859 billion on Tuesday.

ESPN will roll out its 3D network in June beginning with the World Cup match between hosts South Africa and Mexico in Johannesburg.

Seperately, Discovery Communications Inc. said it had joined ranks with Sony Corp and IMAX Corp to launch a dedicated 3D network in the United States beginning in 2011.

The network will feature history, space, adventure shows and children's programmes and reflects a strong trend in the entertainment industry to harness 3D in the home.