We reached out to ESPN, and the company confirmed rumors about the end of its 3D broadcasts. ESPN citied lackluster adoption of the technology as the main reason. In an email statement, ESPN wasn't willing to rule out 3D, saying the company will be all about it when and if the technology takes off and people actually start watching it. That's a big "when" at this point. Over the last few years, manufacturers have sold loads of 3DTVs. ESPN 3D is the largest and most important source of 3DTV content out there. Without it, the medium might just die.
Sports was the crucial test case. If there was ever a justification for 3D televisions it was watching sports—and if you can't get people excited about 3D action-packed sports, you can forget about getting them excited about 3D anything else.
Everybody involved knew sports were important. Last year, Panasonic footed the bill for the production of a 3D feed of the Olympics, which it provided for free to the United States. It was beautiful! But not even the Olympics could make 3D adoption stick. Apparently, the experience just isn't better enough for people to strap-on specs—even when they've already got 3DTVs.
To paint a rosier picture, ESPN said it is looking to the future of UltraHD. Indeed, broadcasters and manufacturers are currently developing trials for 4K broadcasting, and the word is that the 2014 World Cup will be broadcast in UHD straight from Brazil. Let's hope high-resolution fares better than the third dimension.