February 18, 2007
NBA 3D HD Viewing Parties in Las Vegas Tries to Popularize Public 3D Viewings

Television viewing is inherently social. While we've written plenty of times about the power of fan communities (see here and here and here and here) in the online space, the most basic formation of community among fans is the one-on-one or small group discussions that have always occurred around viewing and watching shows, whether these be sports show parties, DVD marathons for a series, or phone conversations or IMs after the latest teen drama or soap opera.

That's what the NBA is hoping to tap into on a grander scale with its newest plan for encouraging the adoption of new technology for three-dimensional high-definition NBA basketball games.

Earlier this month, the National Basketball Association announced that it is holding a series of game parties in Las Vegas to view the games in 3-D HD. The events will be elitist, invitation only, and will involve the screenings of both the All-Star Game and All-Star Saturday Night this weekend, both as a way to help promote new 3-D technology through an NBA partnership with PACE, which James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek calls "a company specializing in 3-D production founded by James Cameron and cinematographer Vincent Pace."

Hibberd questions whether the concept of televised sporting events would have major followings. I know that closed-circuit events have had some appeal in the past, but it is questionable as to whether the new technologies and promises for "a courtside view of the game" from a big screen would bring people out for regular outings to watch TV sports out of the comfort of their home, especially since sports viewing has primarily been positioned as an in-the-home social event. The idea is to create more NBA events in movie theaters that are equipped for 3d movies.

Hibberd also questions whether, with the growing number of HD sets at home, people would really want to come out to watch sports, much less wear 3D glasses.

With the party taking place, Joshua Karp at The Boy Genius Report writes this weekend: "600 lucky, wealthy, or well-connected fans are currently enjoying the game in all of it's three-dimensional glory. Shot with a combination of 5 double-lensed cameras, the telecast requires special reception equipment to work."

Gina Keating with Reuters writes that the crowd will include "executives from sports, theater owners and broadcasting companies," as the NBA hopes to attract them to create similar events of their own.

Will the technology, combined with the social aspects, convince people to leave their sets at home to watch live sporting events in the theater? The movie theater when transformed into sports viewing venue changes the nature of watching on the big-screen considerably, with audience reactions and the sort. I know pro wrestling and boxing has done fairly well on closed circuit at times, and some sporting events have done well in such venues, but there has never been widespread interest in these public viewings.

Will the technology make the difference this time?