It's interesting... the studios made such a big deal at first about how 3D was going to be the thing that drove people back to the theaters, and based on the performance of "Avatar," they could make that case quite successfully right now.

And yet all I'm hearing right now is about the push to get 3D into the home, and with the Consumer Electronics Show in full-swing in Vegas right now, there's tons of breaking news about the format and what we can expect from it every day.  Sony made a splash this morning with the following news:

Culver City, CA (January 7, 2010) – To coincide with the rollout of 3D electronics hardware from Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) today announced the studio will begin releasing 3D content on Blu-ray Disc™ worldwide in 2010.

The first planned SPHE Blu-ray 3D release will be the recent animated blockbuster “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” timed to the availability of Sony Electronics’ 3D compatible BRAVIA® LCD TVs and 3D compatible Blu-ray disc players in the summer of 2010. More information about the upcoming Blu-ray 3D edition of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” as well as other future SPHE Blu-ray 3D releases, will be announced in the Spring of 2010.

“3D entertainment on Blu-ray is poised to revolutionize the home viewing experience in much the same way that high-definition televisions and Blu-ray Disc have over the past several years,” said SPHE worldwide president David Bishop. “SPHE is proud to lead the way in providing compelling 3D entertainment to complement the new hardware entering the marketplace.”

I fully intend to pick up one of those BRAVIA 3D sets when they're released this summer.  I know people who are saving money for that new Apple tablet thing... not me.  I want a 3D HD set and a compatible player, because I've seen a few tests that have blown my mind.

Even if you don't pick up a BluRay player, though, there's going to be plenty of 3D content available at home thanks to another deal that was announced this week:

Las Vegas, NV – Three of the world’s leading media, technology and entertainment companies – Discovery Communications, Sony Corporation and IMAX Corporation – today announced a joint venture established to develop the first 24/7 dedicated 3D television network in the U.S. The partnership brings together three leaders with an extraordinary collection of award-winning 3D content, technology expertise, television distribution and operational strength to deliver a high-quality three-dimensional viewing experience to home television audiences.  The joint venture intends to launch the network beginning in the U.S. in 2011.

“Discovery’s business strategy has always focused on delivering groundbreaking content through new platforms, including the first suite of digital channels launched in 1996 and the first 24/7 basic cable HD channel in 2002,” said Discovery Founder and Chairman John Hendricks.  “Now, as Discovery celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2010 as the world leader in satisfying curiosity and bringing audiences the most realistic viewing experience, we continue to change the face of television with the launch of the first-ever 24/7 dedicated 3D television network.”

“Sony is the only company with expertise in every part of the 3D value chain,” said Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, CEO and President, Sony Corporation. “We are delighted to be partnering with Discovery and IMAX, two premier companies also dedicated to leadership in 3D, in this groundbreaking new venture.  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.”

“By partnering with Sony and IMAX on 3D, Discovery will lead the way in revolutionizing the next-generation home viewing experience in the U.S. and around the world,” said Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav.  “Today’s announcement is the next step in fulfilling Discovery’s mission of providing groundbreaking content for our affiliate partners and enlightening viewers with the most immersive and realistic viewing experience available anywhere.”

“IMAX has been a pioneer and recognized leader in 3D technology for more than twenty-five years, delivering the premium in-theatre experience to audiences around the world. We’re reaching more and more consumers with the recent expansion of the IMAX® theatre network and the growth of 3D movie content," said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “This new business venture is the first step in our strategic effort to take 3D into the home and extend the IMAX brand. We’ve already had strong collaborations with Discovery Communications and Sony in the past on IMAX event film titles, and we are thrilled to work with such strong partners to be the first to make in-home 3D a reality.”

Discovery, Sony, through its U.S. affiliate, Sony Corporation of America, and IMAX each will be equal partners in the joint venture.  It will be launched in the U.S., with a goal of driving consumer adoption of 3D televisions and giving the network long-term leadership in the 3D home marketplace.  In the future, the companies also will explore international distribution opportunities in selected markets.

The new 3D network will feature high-quality premium content from genres that are most appealing in 3D, including natural history, space, exploration, adventure, engineering, science and technology, motion pictures and children’s programming from Discovery, Sony Pictures Entertainment, IMAX and other third-party providers.

Discovery will provide network services, including affiliate sales and technical support functions, as well as 3D television rights to Discovery content and cross-promotion across its portfolio of 13 U.S. television networks.  Sony will provide advertising/sponsorship sales support, and will seek to license television rights to current and future 3D feature films, music-related 3D content and game-related 3D content, while providing cross-promotion at retail stores.    IMAX also will license television rights to future 3D films, promotion through its owned-and-operated movie theaters across the U.S., and a suite of proprietary and patented image enhancement and 3D technologies.

Governance for the joint venture will be handled by a board of directors comprised of members from each of the three companies, with the day-to-day operations run by a separate staff and management team that will report to the board.  A search for the venture’s general manager will begin immediately.

The parties have signed a non-binding Letter of Intent.  Specific financial terms of the venture were not disclosed.  The parties will work towards prompt execution of definitive agreements, subject to any necessary regulatory approvals.

Overall, it sounds like we're going to see some very interesting attempts at cracking this market in the next year or so.  Sports are going to be a major draw if they can figure that one out.  And, yes, I anticipate that the 3D BluRay release of "Avatar" is going to be a key part of getting these players and TVs into homes, as the people who were blown away by what they see theatrically are going to want a way to reproduce that at home.

Based on how awful that red-and-blue they're still using at home is, this evolution in home entertainment can't come fast enough.

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