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Comcast demos live 3D TV

Cable giant shows reporters what the live 3D TV feed will look like from the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., next week.

NEW YORK--Comcast gave a preview here Wednesday of what its 3D broadcast of the Masters golf tournament will look like next week.

The cable giant will be delivering the live 3D broadcast of the tournament, produced by the Augusta National Golf Club, from April 7 through 11 to subscribers of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, and Cablevision.

The feed, which is the first-ever linear broadcast of a live 3D event, will also be simulcast online. Highlights will be available on demand after the tournament ends.

On Wednesday, Comcast showed off test footage to reporters at the Sports New York studios. The company demonstrated the technology on three devices: a 3D-enabled laptop, an LG "passive" 3D TV, and a Sony "active" 3D TV. There are technical differences between the "passive" and "active" TVs, but for consumers, the difference between the two is that the passive technology requires glasses that cost about $1.50, while the active version requires glasses that cost $150.

The active technology is what will be in 3D TVs coming to market this year, including TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and Vizio. The passive technology today is very expensive to include in TVs, and only prototypes are available right now. It could be years before the price is low enough to make it a viable option for consumers, according to David Katzmaier, a CNET Reviews editor for TVs.

Derek Harrar, senior vice president of video and entertainment services, admitted that it's still the early days for 3D TV. Anyone interested in checking out the 3D broadcast will need to buy a new 3D-enabled TV. Considering that these new TVs have been on the market for only about a month, there are probably only a few thousand households able to watch it around the country.

Still, Harrar said this broadcast is more about showing off what is possible with 3D TV and to give cable subscribers a taste of what is to come. Mark Francisco, a technical expert at Comcast, explained that no software upgrade is necessary to watch the 3D feed. And executives said that eventually, the cable operator will be offering a variety of programs on-demand in 3D. The programming, they said, will include live sports events, as well as concerts and movies such as "Avatar" that have been filmed in 3D.

Cable subscribers shouldn't expect to see full channels programmed with 3D content anytime soon, Harrar said. It's more likely that Comcast will offer special events and on-demand programming in 3D.

"This technology is really ideal for events," he said. "You probably wouldn't want to sit around and watch the evening news in 3D."

Three-dimensional TV viewing is expected to be the new hot thing in TVs for the next few years. The technology is already being bundled into TV manufacturers' flagship models. CNET Reviews editor David Katzmaier has been following this market closely on CNET's 3D TV resource guide. And he has written a helpful FAQ for anyone just learning about the technology.

For a closer look at the state of the 3D TV market, check back on CNET News later this week for a more in-depth feature.