Television is about to enter a new dimension in the Middle East, with Orbit Showtime Network (OSN), Etisalat and du all planning new or extended 3D entertainment broadcasts.
The pay-TV network OSN yesterday launched three-dimensional content through its "video on demand" service, making it the first Middle East satellite broadcaster to offer 3D movies at home. This summer, Etisalat and du both offered FIFA World Cup coverage in 3D through their deals with Al Jazeera, which owned the regional broadcast rights to the tournament. The two UAE telecommunications companies are now pursuing deals to offer additional content in the format.
"3D is the next big wave of broadcasting innovation," said David Butorac, the chief executive of OSN. "3D will continue to grow, and as the screens continue to expand throughout the region, we will continue to expand the offering we'll be having. "OSN is very proud to be the first broadcaster in this region to be showcasing 3D content."
The "underwater odyssey" Oceanworld 3D will be first movie to be shown in the format by OSN. This will be followed by Hollywood titles such as Bolt, Street Dance and Final Destination. The company also said that major sporting eventswould be shown in 3D in the future.
Shows can be viewed in 3D only with special TV sets and glasses. Content will initially be carried on the broadcaster's "video on demand" service, but OSN says it may offer a dedicated 3D channel at a later date, when uptake of compatible sets increases and more content is available.
"I'm not anticipating a full 3D channel immediately," said Mr Butorac. "Initially it will be movies and content that is made available to us on the 'on demand' or indeed on select broadcasts. And then over time we will mature that into full channels, just like in the early days of high definition."
The On Demand Group, a company based in the UK that supplies video on demand services for du's internet protocol television network, says it will launch 3D services "very shortly".
"It is planned to come in early 2011," said Georges Dabaghi, On Demand Group's general manager for the Middle East. The service will be "transactional", he added.
Mr Dabaghi acknowledged that the launch of 3D would test an emerging consumer market. "The uptake is not yet a critical mass because of the limitation [on the number] of 3D sets on the market," he said.
Humaid al Suwaidi, the chief executive of E-vision, Etisalat's TV arm, said the company also had plans for 3D services. "We are sourcing some content for 3D Ö it's on our agenda," he said, adding that movies and sport would be prime candidates.
Mr Butorac said OSN planned to expand its high-definition TV output.
"We firmly believe that the growth of high-definition television is going to be of great opportunity for this region. I think today there's about 120,000 HD screens being sold throughout this region every month," he said.
"We will continue to grow those channels in the future. We have some plans for additional channels coming in the weeks and months ahead."