As Britain basked in brilliant sunshine this weekend, Sir David Attenborough was still hard at work.
The 86 year-old naturalist was deep in the bowels of London’s Natural History Museum filming for his latest new series for Sky 3D.
It will be the sixth major 3D project Sir David has completed in the last three years for Sky.
The ground-breaking first film, called Flying Monsters, won a BAFTA award and has gone on to take more than $10m on giant cinema screens around the world. Additionally, one of the most recent - Galapagos - was rated by Sky customers as a show they valued above almost any other on Sky.
And as of last week more than half a million Sky TV customers had signed up to watch 3D from Sky, bringing to a close our strongest quarter of growth to date.
Yet that’s not to say there haven’t been challenges in reaching this landmark.
It’s early days for 3D TV in the home – and it is also fair to say that the market isn’t quite where some people had hoped it would be by now.
Certainly the on-going economic downturn has meant that households are tightening their belts and people have upgraded their TV sets to 3D at a slower rate than the industry first forecast. Some potential viewers may have also delayed experiencing 3D, preferring to wait for new technologies which mean they don’t have to wear glasses.
We’ve also recently seen some broadcasters scale back their 3D services. In the US sports broadcaster ESPN will cease 3D broadcasts by the end of the year, while in the UK after experimenting with a handful of shows the BBC has said it is going to put its 3D development on hold. And some industry critics say the technology side is still complex and adds extra cost to the production process, which some broadcasters struggle to recoup through their existing business models.
This has all led to some suggestions that 3D isn’t finding its audience.
Yet our experience of 3D TV has been far more positive, despite these challenges.
Firstly, 3D has been a great way of helping our customers get move value from their Sky subscription by providing a unique, immersive 3D experience at home for no additional cost.
This is because - unlike some other providers of 3D programming in the UK or US - we are a platform operator as well as a content producer. This means that a significant proportion of the value of providing great TV in 3D lies in how it helps attract new customers to join Sky, and in how it provides another reason for existing customers to stay with Sky.
Secondly, according to our research, Sky 3D viewers are among our most satisfied customers, with sports, movies and natural history their favourite genres. That’s why those areas – big event TV - are our focus moving forward.
Thanks to our close partnerships with the major US studios, we’ve been able to bring the best 3D movies to our customers and at a volume greater than any other provider of 3D to the home anywhere in the world. Hollywood’s continuing belief in the power of 3D is another factor which has helped sustain appetite, with directors continuing to believe in its potential to enhance great storytelling and studios and cinemas continuing to make significant profits from their investment in 3D. In the last few months 3D blockbusters on the channel included Avengers Assemble, The Amazing Spiderman and Disney’s Brave.
We’ve complemented this with some fantastic major sporting events. In fact, we’ve shown more live events than the sports-only ESPN channel has – which when added with the movies and ground-breaking projects from Sir David starts to explain why customers value 3D highly.
We recognise that at this stage in its development 3D isn't for everyday viewing, like on a standard TV channel. This is why we continue to believe it is about focussing on big events where the technology really benefits viewers.
Furthermore, our conversations with TV manufacturers tell us that high quality TVs that will let you watch 3D without glasses and have excellent picture quality will be available at a price not dissimilar to today’s HD and 3D TVs in two to four years’ time.
And for pioneering producers and directors we work with, 3D has been some of the most creatively satisfying work they have ever done.
All of which explains why as most of us were enjoying some time outside this weekend, Sir David was hard at work inside the Natural History Museum preparing another treat for Sky 3D customers.