First impressions of Sky's live 3D football coverage

Yesterday I had the bizarre experience of visiting the Emirates stadium to watch Arsenal's titanic clash with Manchester United… on TV. While the real

I was watching history unfold right in front of my nose: this wasn't just Sky's first public 3D broadcast (although it was only going to a handful of pubs around the UK) - it was the first sporting event in the world to broadcast live in 3D. But was it any good? And will anyone really want it?

The answer to both those questions is a qualified yes. The 3D coverage was incredibly involving when we got a manager's-eye view from the sidelines, or watched the ball whizzing into the net from behind the goal. I flinched every time Sky's 3D graphics appeared, fearing I'd be slapped in the side of the head by the giant  logo. But for most of the match, with the cameras offering the traditional top-down view from the gantry, the image felt flat - and I felt like I was watching TV with sunglasses on. In a football stadium.

Convincing people to wear sunglasses in their lounge - even the slightly trendier, UV-protected shades that Sky was handing out -  is going to be tough. Just  as convincing people to shell out £2000 on a 3D-ready TV will be tough.

But I think 3DTV is a slow burner. It'll achieve critical mass by stealth, creeping into high-end TVs this year, and mid-range sets next year. When you upgrade your TV, chances are that 3D will come as standard. And with 3D PlayStation gaming coming soon - not to mention a 3D Blu-ray of the highest-grossing movie of all time, among others - it would be churlish not to crack out the sunnies.

So 3DTV will take a few years to become big. But that gives Sky enough time to perfect its coverage (even if it means tearing up front-row seats to make room for more cameras) and extend into other sports - not to mention dramas and documentaries.

The bad news for early adopters, though, is that rights issues mean its unlikely we'll get to see 3DTV coverage of the World Cup in the UK - while Americans will get the chance to see 3D World Cup highlights on ESPN (despite not having a clear understanding of the word 'football').

The Sky 3D channel goes live to pubs in April, but it won't make it into homes until the autumn. No word on pricing yet, but as it uses current HD boxes I'd suggest it would make the perfect freebie for fully paid-up HD subscribers - at least until there's enough 3D programming to fill a few channels (which will probably be 2012, when the BBC plans to broadcast the Olympics in 3D).

Having long been a skeptic, I'm now more convinced that 3D has a bright future. But it'd be brighter if you didn't have to wear shades.