Sony ESPN and Discovery team up to launch US 3D TV channel

US sports network ESPN is joining the rush to go 3D with plans to launch a 3D television network in June in the US in partnership with Sony and the Discovery Channel.

The Walt Disney subsidiary said it will launch ESPN 3D and will air a minimum of 85 live sporting events during its first year.

Sony, Imax and Discovery will be equal partners in a venture with its own management. The channel will carry the companies’ own content, including older 2D programming converted to 3D, and programming from third parties.

"This will be a meaningful step to drive adoption of 3D television sets and afford opportunities for our affiliates to create value through new product offerings, and our advertisers, who want fresh sponsorship opportunities," Sean Bratches, ESPN's executive vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement.

A lack of 3D programming, in particular for sports, has been one of the key barriers to adoption of 3D TV, analysts have said. Having to wear special glasses is another.

In addition, sports - perhaps even more than movies, is a prime driver of consumer sales for screen technology, including flat-screen TVs.

ESPN said its first broadcast will be a June 11 World Cup soccer match between South Africa and Mexico.

BSkyB announced last year that it is to launch a dedicated 3D TV channel in the UK in the early part of 2010.

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