FOX SPORTS

Sports, video games, porn — everything's better in 3D

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Brian Lowry

A media columnist and critic for Variety since 2003, Brian Lowry spent seven years at the L.A. Times and has contributed to both NPR and TV Guide Network. He writes weekly for FOX Sports. A UCLA alum, Lowry proudly attended the '95 title game. MORE>>
 
   
 

Conventional wisdom and precedent says future TV-watching innovations will be driven by four areas: sports, movies, video games and porn. It’s equally clear that making such an omelet – from ingredients predominantly associated with things men like – is going to require breaking some eggs.

 

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Just a few weeks ago Flo TV contacted me, eager to get coverage of its portable college-football service offering fans access to favorite teams on a handheld device, including a promotion titled the Ultimate Tailgate Tour.

Days later, Qualcomm announced that Flo TV was effectively being shut down.

On a recent Sunday, I sat in a local diner as three young guys sat nearby intently watching a football game not on a TV but via an NFL app on an Android smartphone.

There’s no question we’re in the midst of a pretty staggering wave of gadgetry right now, rewriting how we consume video. Yet, except for the most avid early adopters – those zealots with the resources and desire to run out and buy every shiny new gizmo – the smart money says to sit back, relax and wait for the shakeout to happen.

Of course, those pushing new delivery systems have a vested interest in fans anteing up today. “Watch entire games live on your cell phone!” proclaims an ad for DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, pushing its TV-to-go option. Because a season-long subscription already costs about $300 (and that’s without the upgrade), that represents a pretty serious relationship for the commitment-phobic.

Yet how many people want to watch football on a three-inch screen? Maybe when they’re held hostage – at work on weekends or waiting in airports – for a few minutes to check a score. But entire games? That’s a tough sell when there’s a 46-inch high-definition TV in the living room.

Speaking of the living room, the next big push will be for 3D TV. In fact, games are regularly available in 3D from ESPN – at least, for the 12 people or so who can currently watch them.

POLL

  • What's the best way to watch sports?
    • 3-inch handheld device
    • Wearing 3D glasses in your living room
    • The biggest screen possible
    • Nothing beats being there

The only thing holding back 3D TV at this point is a market for it. In an Opinion Research Corp. survey earlier this year, only five percent of respondents said they intended to buy such a TV in the next few years.

Wearing special glasses while watching TV is also a turnoff. Though people can immerse themselves in Avatar in movie theaters, home viewing is a different experience, one full of distractions. According to USA Today, nearly 90 percent of respondents to a Nielsen Co. study complained that the need to wear 3D goggles at home makes it “hard to do other things while watching the tube.”

Of course, it’s tough seeing around technology’s next corner (otherwise I’d be making money doing that, not this), leaving us in never-say-never mode. Toshiba, for example, is coming out with a 3D TV that won’t require glasses, although initially, the screen will be relatively small (12 or 20 inches), which hardly sounds like competition for big-screen HD TVs unless you’re really addicted to 3D.

Granted, this could all change quickly, and sports will likely be a powerful driver. It seems inescapable that we’re migrating toward a world where TV-type consumption becomes more portable – the video quality on an iPad is pretty terrific – and a la carte. That second part is key, since many fans covet the freedom to buy specific games they want – say, a Kansas City native living in Los Angeles who wants to watch the Chiefs– without being forced to shell out a boatload for bundled packages like Sunday Ticket.

For now, though, waiting out the technology game on the sidelines – while others plunk down their cash, distinguishing the next must-have item from also-rans like Flo TV – seems like the sanest response to all the uncertainty. Because while owning the latest in consumer electronics can be fun, unless the next gee-whiz breakthrough clearly beats a big-screen and a beer, for most folks the flow will still lead straight to the couch – which, as this fall’s soaring NFL ratings suggest, remains a perfectly fine way to watch sports.

Or, if you prefer, porn.

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