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ESPN 3D Kicks Off 3D Ad Game

The match ball for the opening World Cup fixture between South Africa and Mexico.
Getty Images
The match ball for the opening World Cup fixture between South Africa and Mexico.

ESPN 3D's launch Friday with World Cup coveragemarks the beginning of a whole new 3D advertising business.

The channel announced it's launching with 3D commercials from Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3, (corporate synergy), plus Sony and Gillette . They'll spend up to 40 percent more than the cost of a typical commercial, which can run up to a million dollars, to produce 30 second spots in 3-D.

These marketers are paying a premium to reach the affluent, early adopters who already have 3-D enabled TVs. There aren't many out there now, and the stats on the burgeoning market are fuzzy: anywhere between 2 million and 5 million 3-D TVs and computer monitors are expected to be in American homes by the end of the year.

But when people do get those screens, the content will be readily available to more than half the US cable audience: ESPN 3-D is offered on Comcast , DirecTV and AT&T's U-Verse.

Three marketers doesn't sound like many for such a big channel launch, raising questions of whether 3-D ad dollars will lag 3-D content. But ESPN says it's always planned to run relatively few ads during its World Cup coverage. And ESPN says it's still early days- the network's in talks with a range of its regular advertisers.

Marketers will be watching ratings and audience reaction carefully to plan future investment in creating and running 3-d ads.

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