Can premium big-screen viewing thrive when so many are tuning into thrown-together YouTube videos on small tablets? 3net Studios wants you to believe it can.
A joint venture of Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISC.A), IMAX (NYSE:IMAX), and Sony (NYSE:SONY), 3net this week announced five new shows designed specifically for 3-D TV and ultra-high definition 4K screens, including a documentary series titled "SPACE" and a stop-motion comic called "MARKSMEN."
The hope? Succeed where Hollywood has mostly failed, beginning with filling what 3net executives perceive to be a content gap. "Today's announcement marks an important first step in our ongoing mission to meet the increasing global demand for high-quality, original 3D and 4K television content head on," studio president and CEO Tom Cosgrove said in a press release.
Content hasn't been a problem for theaters. Several action features were treated with RealD's (NYSE: RLD) stereoscopic technology, too often with poor results. The Dark Knight Rises wasn't shot in 3-D because of director Christopher Nolan's preference for celluloid and widescreen IMAX.
Whether viewers prove as discerning as Nolan when remains to be seen, but some analysts continue to predict a bright future of 3-D and 4K television. For example, NPD projects the total market for 3-D TVs will grow from 25 million units last year to 180 million units by 2019 -- a sevenfold increase.
4K isn't directly related to 3-D. Instead, it's a widescreen format measuring roughly 4,000 pixels horizontally in order to display more action in a picture. Few cameras are built to shoot 4K, though (surprise!) Sony's CineAlta is one. The studio also produces a 4K projector and is among the leaders in developing 3-D TVs.
Will 3net's programming push unleash a broader effort to create 3-D and ultra HD content? I think it's too early to tell. As an investor, I'd be much more interested if 3net's programs were being distributed through established services such as YouTube.