BBC Relegates Wimbledon 3D To Red Button HD: The End Is Nigh

Mike Wheatley

If you’re still not convinced that 3D is rapidly accelerating towards that great TV scrapheap in the sky, look no further than the BBC’s shoddy, last-minute scramble to provide some sort of extra-dimensional ‘coverage’ of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships for further evidence of that.

Wimbledon in side-by-side 3D

The Beeb has ‘just’ announced its intention to broadcast “selected matches” in the third dimension to homes across the United Kingdom as it continues its two-year long experiment with 3-D production and distribution. As such, anyone with access to a 3D-capable HDTV and the BBC’s Red Button HD service will be able to see the men’s and women’s semi-finals and finals from a more immersive perspective.

That sounds all well and good, so why is this such bad news for 3D TV? Simply because, it’s yet more proof that the BBC doesn’t really care all that much about 3D anymore, something we learned from Andy Quested’s comments earlier this year when he admitted that audiences are becoming “less and less enthusiastic” about the technology. The BBC seems to be echoing this lack of enthusiasm, for the UK public service broadcaster only bothered to get its press release announcing the coverage out yesterday, a mere 24 hours before coverage is due to start today! How on earth’s that supposed to generate any buzz ahead of the events? Most people will be at work anyway…

Even worse, the BBC has made a blunder by relegating tri-dimensional coverage to its Red Button HD service – those few ‘enthusiasts’ who’re reading will recall that the organisation’s original Wimbledon 2011 3D coverage was given pride of place on the BBC HD channel, which has since been shut down and replaced by BBC2 HD. As a result of this decision, thousands of Sky TV viewers will now miss out on the 3D programming, as British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has yet to resolve matters with the BBC to offer Red Button HD on the Sky platform. There’s better news for those who can access Virgin Media (channel 994), Freeview HD (channel 303) and Freesat HD (channel 980) however, as these digital television platforms do carry Red Button HD.

Finally there’s the rather tepid statement from Kim Shillinglaw (head of BBC 3D) pinned onto the end of the press release, which once again reiterates how delighted the BBC is to continue providing live 3-dimensional coverage. “This allows us to build on previous coverage at the London Olympics and previous Wimbledon Championships,” said Shillinglaw – note how he didn’t say squat about how “successful” the trials have been up till now.

Clearly, the BBC has lost all enthusiasm for 3D broadcasting, but when one considers the money it’s spent (and continues to spend) on these ‘trials’, the very least it could do is pretend it’s still excited about the concept.

Source: BBC Media Centre